Sara and Ryo, a young, unmarried couple in their late twenties, leave Tokyo to spend a few days of their paid holidays in Atami, a tourist town of faded splendour. Although they appear to love each other, Sara seems put off by the prospect of living together. In the style of Journey to Italy (to which this film will undoubtedly be compared), Akira Yamamoto draws parallels between place and feeling, or rather, he lets the former speak to stifle (and make the audience feel) the latter in all their opaque intricacies; places wield a discrete yet nonetheless perceptible psychology; they speak low, but nonetheless voice feelings that the characters dare not express. This is no mean feat in that it requires harmonising the carefully calculated meaning of the places and that of the rhythm, and strewing the pebbles of dialogue to intensify the emptiness of the whole.
Nevertheless, this is exactly what Yamamoto manages to pull off brilliantly with his first film. And we soon come to understand that Atami, this supposedly festive, lively leisure resort that has seen far better days, is more than a backdrop, for although it’s an ideal setting to examine cohabitation, it’s also, and with little ambiguity, the chance to meditate on a country struggling with a certain economic logic. Yamamoto distils all this cruelty with the lightest of touches – which, of course, makes it all the more painful. (JPR)