From the opening colonic-irrigation scene, immediately followed by an episode in a Tokyo office where wretched new toys are being tested on spoilt-brat infants, it’s clear that Sawako Decides will be one of the more unusual Japanese films of the year. In fact, in a year in which the creativity in Japanese mainstream cinema all but curled up and died, it’s a real stand-out: a joyous, nuanced, comic drama about female empowerment.
Sawako, played with brio by young star Mitsushima Hikari, soon leaves behind her humiliating job in Tokyo to move back to her rural hometown. Her father is ill and his business (packing freshwater clams) is going belly-up. But the elderly female workforce resents and despises her, her hopeless boyfriend (a divorcé with a young daughter and a knitting habit) tracks her down, and Sawako begins to despair of ever making sense of her life… Ishii Yuya, who has risen from the rank of indie maverick to major talent in just five years, makes Sawako’s big decision both a credible narrative twist and an occasion for cheers from the audience. You won’t be sorry you took this ride. —Tony Rayns
The Boston Festival of Films from Iran opens tomorrow and runs through January 29 and, in his overview for the Phoenix, Peter Keough opens