Director: Shin Adachi
Writer: Shin Adachi
Cast: Gaku Hamada, Asami Mizukawa, Chise Niitsu
Running Time: 115 minutes
Shin Adachi adapts his own semi-autobiographical novel focusing on the love/hate relationship of a married couple. Winner of the Best Screenplay Awards at the 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival.
Gota (HAMADA Gaku) is an unsuccessful screenwriter struggling to catch his big break and is seemingly set upon in all areas of his life; teetering on the brink of financial ruin, unable to push through a relentless writer’s block, and besieged by a wife that openly despises him while refusing all of his sexual advances. One day, despite strong resistance from his wife (MIZUKAWA Asami), Gota drags his family on an impromptu and ill-funded research trip in the hope that it will kick start his career and improve his ailing marriage. (The Japan Foundation)
Gaku Hamada is one of the most likeable and sympathetic actors in recent memory. For fans of Third Window Films, you will recognize him from a string of great movies, including Fish Story, Sake Bomb and See You Tomorrow Everyone. Gaku almost has a childlike immature quality and innocence, that always makes you feel compassion for him, even in A Beloved Wife when he is acting like a pervert. This simple story relies on both leads to be terrific, and thankfully they are.
Asami Mizukawa plays the role of the wife, and she is not a very easy person. I have to admit, while Asami was excellent in the role, and I know she was not supposed to be a completely likeable character. There were moments when her character became grating and I wondered why her husband would put up with it. Her constant abuse and put-downs become tiresome, even for the viewer. And it makes you wonder, why would this couple continue rather than break up? It could be in part, due to their daughter, who is completely adorable and offers some warming moments between the family. But, it appears there is more to the couple's relationship. Almost like they are playing a game. A game where Gota is abused but he either oddly enjoys it, or he puts up with it because he really wants sex. They both appear disappointed in their own life, and that is what is causing the friction.
Most viewers will know people in a relationship like this one. Some viewers might even be in a similar relationship themselves. And that is one of the strongest elements of the film; realism. The portrayal of the characters, the way they talk and interact with one another, and their relationship habits are incredibly honest and realistic. Although they are played up to the extreme for comedic affect.
The humour is awkward, at times very awkward. If you don't enjoy cringe, then it might not be for you. However, there are some great laughs to be had. The moments usually come from Gota when he is in full-on horny mode. Some of the situations he gets himself into, and the way he tries to use them as his ticket to sex, are genuinely eye-covering funny. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some very sweet comical moments between Gota and his daughter which should enact more of a playful chuckle.
Reviewed as part of The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme