TL;DR: It's really better not to know what this is about. Just watch it.
I think I may as well start this post by letting you know straight off that this is one of my favourite Japanese films, possibly even number one. As much as I love Japanese movies, it can be hard to find really original ones. That may be surprising to many people who often think of Japanese films as quirky and out there. They are in many ways and certainly in comparison to many Hollywood films, but when you’ve watched quite a few you begin to see a lot of re-occurring tropes and themes.
The film is based on a Japanese novel that I read a chapter or two of in Japanese class a few years ago. I like the film better, probably because it takes me so long to read in Japanese that it’s not as enjoyable an experience as it could be but also I think because the writing seems quite restrained in terms of characterization where as in the film of course the characters come to life.
‘The foreign duck, the native duck and God’ which in Japanese is actually titled ‘The foreign duck and the native duck’s coin locker’ (アヒルと鴨のコインロッカー) deals with the often untouched theme of racism in Japan. I’m not talking about overt racism used as a tool to show which characters are mean and nasty either. The racism that ‘the foreign duck’ deals with is the everyday kind committed often unconsciously by ordinary people. In particular there is a scene where a non-Japanese woman tries to get on a bus which I think is something I have seen happen in Australia and is the kind of thing which you could see happening in many countries where racism is a pervading problem.
The characters who are mean and nasty, a group of young people who are torturing animals for fun, seem believable and not just that way for the sake of plot. The twist at the end is also very unpredictable and ties all the themes in the film together in a coherent mind blowing kind of way. Your perception of Eita's character Kawasaki (as seen through the character of Shiina, played by Gaku Hamada) will be completely changed through the course of the film which just helps to reaffirm the ideas in the film about stereotypes and first impressions.
The other thing about ‘the foreign duck’ is that the acting is really good. You can tell that there is a director behind this film who has chosen to care about it rather than just casting well-known faces and having the camera linger on their expressions longer than necessary. Not that there are no well-known faces. There is Eita (瑛太) for one and although I’ve always thought of him as an actor with a lot of potential, it’s only in this film (I assume because of the nature of the film’s plot and the director) that he proves that potential.
Maybe it’s also because I was able to identify with the problems that many foreigners may face in Japan. I think overall though it was because this topic was dealt with so delicately, recognizing it as something complex.
In conclusion, I love this film. You should watch it. The end.