The Long Excuse is the Japanese entrant in the Pacific Rim Showcase at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It is the story of grief as a man struggles to come to grips with the death of his wife and becomes the caregiver to the children of the his wife’s best friend.
Newport Beach Film Festival
Release Date: April 24, 2017
Writer: Miwa Nishikawa
Director: Miwa Nishikawa
Cast: Sôsuke Ikematsu, Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu
Sachio Kinugasa (Masahiro Motoki) is a famous author in Japan and a celebrity on Japanese talk shows. His drinking and temper has lead to an emotionally dead relationship with his wife, Natsuko (Eri Fukatsu). Natsuko and her best friend, Yuki Omiya (Keiko Horiuchi) leave one night on a bus excursion for a girls weekend of fun. While Natsuko and Yuki are away, Sachio takes the opportunity to have an affair with a younger woman in their home.
After a few hours of passionate love-making, Natsuko sees a story of a tragic bus crash on the side of a snowy mountain. The next day, Natsuko discovers that his wife was killed on that bus along with Yuki. As a public figure, Natsuko puts on a brave face for the national news and becomes something of a figurehead for the victims.
Natsuko must somehow deal with his grief but finds that he is unable to emotionally cope with his loss. Natsuko explodes at a party where his publisher wants him to write about his experiences. At the same time, his agent is worried because Natsuko’s last few books have not sold well. He suggests that Natsuko become the host of a show that spotlights his tragedy.
Natsuko pulls himself out of his situation by befriending Yuki’s husband, Yoichi (Pistol Takehara) and his son, Shinpei (Kenshin Fushita) and his preschool daughter, Akari (Tamaki Shiratori). Yoichi is a truck driver and does not know anything about keeping a house clean, cooking meals and caring for children.
Natsuko decides to watch the children during the day, while Yoichi works. Natsuko can write his next book as Shinpei goes to school and Akari watches television. It turns out that Natsuko is pretty good at this parenting business. It does not take long for Akari to pull away from the television and appreciate Natsuko’s cooking. Shinpei, on the other hand, is frustrated because he is unable to keep up in “cram” school because of the parenting duties he has to take over with the absence of his father.
The Long Excuse is a movie about grief and the inability to move on with life after tragedy. Sachio rarely spends time in his former home and would rather be at Yoichi’s home with the children. Yoichi, on the other hand, has decided to just disappear from life especially since Natsuko is there to “raise” his children. Both men dealing with the same grief in different ways.
The film is no Manchester By the Sea, which takes a heavy hand at grief. In this case, it takes a real look at the average man left behind after tragic circumstances. It is also interesting to see it all from a Japanese perspective. There is a poignant discussion between Natsuko and Shenpei as he tries to explain why it is good not to cry at death, while at the same time explain that Shenpei’s father’s crying is appropriate.
There is also two separate moments with Natsuko and Yoichi need to slap sense into one another, while at the same time both men have no real authority to say anything. Instead they admonish each other from their own flawed viewpoint.
The Long Excuse is a sweet film about two men struggling to go on with life, when grief leaves them emotionally paralyzed. Culturally speaking, it’s hard to see watch scenes of corporal punishment against children, especially when they don’t deserve it. There are also times when you may wonder if the actor is over acting or acting like a person from Japan.
8 out of 10 stars