Like Asura (2003)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama  |   Run Time - 135 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

A departure from the daring of Yoshimitsu Morita's earlier work, Like Asura shows the veteran director (The Family Game) working in a much more reserved, traditional mode. Like Asura is essentially a well-made melodrama, with occasional comic insight into sibling and romantic relationships. Morita and cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita fill the screen with exquisite compositions, often in long shot, and the cast deliver uniformly restrained and excellent performances, with the exception of Japanese television star Shido Nakamura, who plays the private detective hired by Takiko Takezawa (Eri Fukatsu), the third daughter. Nakamura's portrayal of the detective's endearingly spastic efforts to woo Takiko gives the film a much needed comic jolt that isn't so over the top that it detracts from the delicate mood of the piece as a whole. While the film excels at bringing to life the relationship between the four sisters, and while the fumbling romance between Takiko and the detective is a highlight, Like Asura is too restrained and staid to reach the emotional peaks the material demands. In the end, the film is far too subtle in its subversion of the traditional gender roles of the era it portrays (it takes place in the 1970s), and not emotionally precise enough about the effects of infidelity on a long-term marriage. Like Asura is still worthwhile for its perfect visuals and fine performances.