Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, November 7, 2001


Japanese dream gone wrong
is found at ‘Home’

Review by Gary C.W. Chun

A student documentary from the Japan Academy of Moving Images, "Home" is a stark representation of the Japanese Dream Gone Wrong. It also shows how the determination of one young man to have his family confront their dysfunctional behavior was able to change their situation, maybe not for the better in a superficial, storybook way, but in allowing them to live the remainder of the lives with no illusions.


Screens at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Academy of Arts Theatre.

Takahiro Kobayashi was the one family member able to escape the bad scene at home: a mother who is manic-depressive; a troubled older brother -- a compulsive cleaner stewing in his failure to pass his high school entrance exams -- who never leaves the house; and an embittered father worn out by the both of them.

Kobayashi returns home after learning of his grandmother's terminal cancer. She lives next door to the family and is the happiest of the lot (as far as the audience knows, she's still alive).

The documentary captures all the tension on the homefront in an effectively amateurish way. Stray voices -- sometimes needy, sometimes angry -- float through the small house. When family members do appear on camera, they're usually in the shadows, their troubles and fears as deep as the darkness that envelopes them.

It's curious that Kobayashi admits while he has his camera pointed at his deeply hurt mother during an awkward interview that he's trying to "save" his family with his camera.

He doesn't want to stop recording all of their pain, and he can't face his own pain in dealing with his family without the camera, an attempt to distance himself while playing the role of documentarian. Besides asking for, sometimes demanding, their honesty in facing up to the truth, he asks for their forgiveness in intruding on their private pain.

Watching "Home" is painful and uncomfortable at times, but it's difficult to ignore its impact, not only on the audience, but on Kobayashi and his family.

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