Eventful almost to the point of disbelief in parts, always unpredictable, 'Dreams for Sale' or 'Yume uru futari/ 夢売るふたり' is a roller-coster of a film in which a desperate husband and wife slowly turn against each other and yet always remain connected. It raises questions about what it means to be 'together' as husband and wife, how people gain self satisfaction in life and above all the difference between what you think you want and what will actually bring you self contentment.
'Dreams for sale' (2012) is directed by Miwa Nishikawa (西川美和) who also directed the films 'Sway' (yureru/ ゆれる) and 'Dear Doctor' (Dia dokuta-/ディア・ドクター). It tells the story of Satako and Kanya (Matsu Takako and Abe Sadao), husband and wife, who run a small izakaya (pub restaurant) which catches fire and is lost to them forever. The couple struggle financially as Kanya's pride will not allow him to work anywhere but the best of restaurants even whilst Satako struggles through working at a fast food chain. The film really begins when the Kanya casually sleeps with an acquaintance and is lent money by her in order that he can open up a new izakaya. Satako is furious when she catches on to what he has done, but soon after sees merit in the idea of taking money from women her husband wo's. From there the film gets more complicated as numerous side characters in unusual circumstances make their way into the story as the target of Satako and Kanya's scam to sell them the dream of marriage with Kanya and take their money.
At first it may be a little hard to understand Satako's motivation but as the film progresses it becomes clear that her aim is not to build a new izakaya as good as the last but to punish Kanya by using him as a pimp would a prostitute in part because he betrayed her and in part because she has spent her life with him as the central character, following his dreams rather than her own. This becomes clear as she talks to Minagawa Hitomi (Ebara Yuka), a large weightlifter who's appearance is as far from the Japanese idea of femininity and cuteness as can be and who struggles to find a partner due to this. Through tears Satako tells Hitomi that she should be content with the fact that she has carved out her own path as a champion weightlifter whilst she herself has done little to make her own path and too much for her husband's.
In many respects it is the women who are partnerless (husbandless in fact) which are shown to be more resilient and content within themselves. Whilst Satako is never able to get over her husbands betrayal of her, the other women eventually find peace in who they are and what is important to them in life at the time. The societal expectation that these women need male partners in their lives (which the women themselves feel keenly) in the end is shown to be far from the reality- a prostitute Kanya tries to protect fights off her abusive ex boyfriend on her own and when Kanya tries to get him to back off by saying that they are a couple, the prostitute announces that it isn't the case and that she doesn't need either of them. Kanya states that a woman who has lost her husband to a car accident and is now a single mother needs his help to get back on her feel and raise her son but in the end we see that this isn't the case as mother and son gain fulfilment from each others company. Even one of the first women who Kanya and Satako scam and who sends a detective after him is shown to recover from her entanglement with him. It is only Satako, who even when her husband is taken to jail, still feels entwined with his fate as though it was hers.
For it's layered themes, cinematography and acting I found 'Dreams for Sale' to be a deep and detailed piece of fine film-making. However areas of the plot did seem quite contrived. The contrast of light, happy moments between the main couple (which continue throughout the film despite their troubles) with their very dark underlying feelings of begrudgment towards one another was acted and depicted pitch perfectly to give you the sense of a realistically complicated relationship. The side characters recovery after the couples disruption in their lives helped to lighten what is otherwise a very dark film, giving it a variety of textures.