Japan | France 2018
Opening February 14, 2019
Directed by: Naomi Kawase
Writing credits: Naomi Kawase
Principal actors: Juliette Binoche, Masatoshi Nagase, Takanori Iwata, Mari Natsuki, Kazuko Shirakawa
Jeanne, (Juliette Binoche), travels from France to the mountains of Yoshino in Japan on the search for a medicinal herb with super powers. This plant only blooms every 997 years and Jeanne is certain that this event is imminent. She meets Satoshi (Masatoshi Nagase), an expert in the forests, who senses alarming transformations in the mountains, as well as in his forest. Other members of the small cast are the blind old lady Aki (Mari Natsuki), Hana (Minami), who visits her grandmother, as well as Rin (Takanori Iwata), a young boy. The forest with a personality of its own is practically a character in its own right.
The story unfolds slowly like a mystical poem with limited text in French, English, and Japanese, saying, “death is part of the long sleep,” or “love is like a wave; it never stops.” There is very little background music which makes it a quiet film experience, slow and silent, with many camera close-ups. The plot is full of symbolism, in a religious or spiritual mood, as “Jeanne begins to research clues about her own past, but also comes close to the essence of human existence.” This seems to be connected to the Japanese word “tomo,” which also plays a role. (Becky T.)