Hirokazu Kore-eda's debut feature is a quietly devastating work. Yumiko's domestic bliss is shattered when her loving, seemingly happy husband Ikuo suddenly commits suicide. Years later, her happiness with her kindly second husband is tempered by a grief over Ikuo's final, inexplicable act that will not heal. Recalling the restrained stylistic elegance of Yasujiro Ozu and Hou Hsiao Hsien, Kore-eda unfolds this almost wordless film through a series of beautifully composed static shots that evoke both the pain and the joy of everyday life. Like Ozu, Kore-eda punctuates the film with shots of empty landscapes, as the curiously depopulated cityscapes of Osaka and the rugged vistas of the Noto peninsula resonate with Yumiko's emotional odyssey. Maboroshi no Hikari is a sumptuously photographed, deeply moving masterwork that haunts the viewer long after the credits roll.
by Jonathan Crow review