Synopsis by Jonathan Crow
The second film by Nobuhiro Suwa further explores the improvisational style that he developed in his highly praised debut, 2/Duo (1997). Starting from a three-page treatment, Suwa worked with actors Makiko Watanabe and Tomokazu Miura to fill out the plot and shade in the subtleties of their characters. The story focuses on Tetsuro (Miura), a divorced restaurateur whose business is beginning to fail, and his younger live-in girlfriend, Aki (Watanabe). They live in an open relationship that avoids questions of commitment. Aki is not interested in marriage, choosing to focus on her career at a successful graphic design company. This comfortable dynamic is upset when Tetsuro's ex-wife is involved in a serious car accident, and he is forced to take custody of his 8-year-old son, Shun. Though she is charmed by the boy, Aki is less than enthusiastic about this new arrangement. Aki and Tetsuro experience identity crises as Shun's presence reshapes their lives; their formerly free-form relationship quickly develops the contours of a traditional family. Almost in spite of herself, Aki takes on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities, while Tetsuro is forced to behave like a traditional father and role model. Watanabe gives a brilliantly subtle performance as she deftly reveals Aki's conflicting emotions: affection toward Shun, love tempered with repressed annoyance at Tetsuro, and frustration with herself for not living up to the traditional ideal. As the boy's stay draws to an end, the two are forced to rethink their relationship and their respective futures. Though the dialogue has the same fresh, spontaneous feel that marked Suwa's first film, M/Other is more deliberately paced and rigorously formal. In several scenes, the static camera runs for five or ten minutes, as the actors walk in and out of frame. This film was screened at the 1999 Toronto Film Festival.
High Artistic Quality, High Production Values