Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu) has been alone for three years, ever since her husband Yusuke (Yadanobu Asano) went missing. And then, one day, he suddenly reappears. Yusuke explains that he is in fact dead, having drowned at sea, but his spirit has journeyed back to see her. Somewhat unfazed by this whole thing, Mizuki agrees to go on the road with her ghostly lover, so he can introduce her to all the people who helped him on his trip back from the dead.
Journey to the Shore is a supernatural love story from writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who’s more known for his work in the horror genre (no relation to legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa). The story is inspired by the Japanese word ‘mitoru’, which refers to the act of accompanying a dying person, and is meant as a drawn-out version of a conversation between a man on his deathbed and the loved one watching over him. Indeed, as the film goes on, we get to know Mizuki and Yusuke well, and they get to know each other, learning secrets they’d previously held and eventually working their way towards a more fulfilling conclusion to their relationship. This reflection is helped along by subtle, understated performances from Fukatsu and Asano; along with Kurosawa’s thoughtful direction and Akiko Ashizawa’s cinematography, which brings out the best of the beautiful Japanese countryside, this allows for a contemplative and oneiric atmosphere.
In all of the towns they visit, Yusuke introduces Mizuki to a range of people, all of whom have recently been affected by deaths in their own families, and some of whom are ghosts like Yusuke. However, though these characters and their sub-plots sometimes offer insightful reflections of our lead characters, the journey does, as Mizuki says herself at the start, “take a long time”. One visit, to a couple who run a restaurant, almost repeats the same plot points as the previous encounter; it’s unclear exactly how this half-hour chunk of movie actually enhances the story – and this isn’t the only point in the film at which the ponderous pacing becomes a chore.
Those willing to stick with it may find themselves absorbed by Journey to the Shore’s melancholic exploration of death, and impressed by both the performances and the cinematography, so it’s such a shame that Kurosawa’s film is let down by its repetitive, unclear plotting and its languorous pacing.
Special Features: Interview / Trailer / Booklet
JOURNEY TO THE SHORE / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: KIYOSHI KUROSAWA / SCREENPLAY: KIYOSHI KUROSAWA, TAKASHI UJITA / STARRING: ERI FUKATSU, YADANOBU ASANO / RELEASE DATE: MAY 23RD