Photography, ghosts, an everyday mystery which consumes the protagonist, jazz and brother/ sister love: a whole array of particularly Japanese interests seem to come together in Tokyo Park.
Tokyo Park (Tokyo koen/ 東京公園), 2011, is probably the most recent film I've reviewed so far, although I'm hoping to review a lot more recent ones once I actually get to Japan and can get to a Tsutaya. I actually saw this first at the Japanese film festival last year in Sydney and was quite glad that it was the one film I chose to see out of the entire lineup (it was during the end of uni semester so I didn't have time to see more than one). The film is directed by Shinji Aoyama (青山 真治) who is most famous for the darker film 'Eureka' which he both wrote and directed. Tokyo Koen on the other hand is based on a novel of the same name by Yukiya Shoji (小路 幸也).
The story surrounds a university student, Koji, depicting the different changes in his life after a strange occurrence when a man he has only met once asks him to secretly take photos of a women who goes to a different park within Tokyo everyday in return for money. Koji, played by Haruma Miura (三浦 春馬), struggles to understand the feelings of the women around him (his elder sister, his best friend's girlfriend and his dead mother) and this is reflected in his search to uncover the mystery behind the woman he photographs (and why the man asked him to follow her).
Though this film is sure to attract many fans of Haruma Miura, it's Nana Eikura (榮倉 奈々) who really shines as the qurky, forward and yet suffering Miyu (Koji's best friend's girlfriend). Manami Konishi (小西 真奈美) also does a very good job as Koji's elder sister, portraying her inner struggle against her romantic feelings toward her step-brother with a lot more authenticity than I have seen before by actors on the same theme in various Japanese films. Brother/sister romantic love is a theme in Japanese cinema which usually makes my eyes roll but this time around I was convinced (possibly due to them being step-siblings) because of the maturity she brought to it.
The film at times seems like it is trying to do too many things at once, however once you understand where it is going in terms of the main threads of Koji understanding the different women in his life, it all seems more connected and comprehensive than it was at first glance. Koji's struggle is mirrored in the end scene where the man who hired him finally reveals why he asked him to do this strange job. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a good story with wonderful characters which are depicted in detail throughout. It does everything it sets out to do well, and audiences are bound to remember Miyu's charming character long after their viewing.