Mitsuko Delivers @ Fantasia

mitsuko delivers2In most films pregnant women are often depicted as weak and vulnerable. Not in Yuya Ishii’s Mitsuko Delivers. Mitsuko is the strongest character in the film. An interesting look at female strength in a light-hearted way as there is plenty of comedy.  Her strength is even exaggerated to make the point. As the film goes on you begin to realize that plenty is exaggerated.

A very pregnant (she is in her ninth month) and alone Mitsuko (Riisa Naka – The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) is almost completely broke and seemingly homeless.  After having to pay creditors to come and take away her worthless possessions, Mitsuko takes her few remaining yen and one small suitcase hitting the road. After giving the rest of her money to an unemployed former insurance agent who hasn’t told his wife that he lost his job six months ago so he dresses in his suit everyday and then sits in the park, Mitsuko hops into a cab and tells the driver to follow a cloud in the sky.

At the end of her ride, Mitsuko gets out without paying and enters a part of the city that seems separated from the rest.  It is like time has not gone on in this particular tenement that is one of the few remaining from the bombing of the city during World War II by the Americans. The elderly woman (Miyoko Inagawa) who runs the tenement is pretty much the only one left. We discover that Mitsuko lived there for a short period with her parents, who believe that she is living in California, when she was 8-years-old.  One of the few remaining tenants is a young man (Aoi Nakamura – Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night), who as a boy 15 years ago fell in love with Mitsuko, and his uncle (Ryo Ishibashi) – The Grudge, War)

The elderly woman is just waiting for death, so Mitsuko decides to move in with her.  She also begins to help Yoichi and his uncle with there struggling restaurant. Yoichi and the uncle have been taking care of the elderly woman for having helped them in the past.  The uncle has done so to the detriment of his own romantic life.  He is in love with a woman, but does not do anything about it out of obligation to the elderly woman.

Despite her precarious situation, Mitsuko refuses to allow those around her to just give up.  She is going to inject some life into them whether they want it or not.

Each of the actors in the film does a wonderful job.  They are all, despite their flaws, loveable and the actors portraying them are a charismatic bunch.  In the title role, Riisa Naka is very likable in her role as a character that at times can be pushy and strange.

Director and writer Yuya Ishii used very broad strokes when creating his characters and writing his comedy.  Most of the comedy works, but some of it is a little too much at times.  No matter, as the bulk of it is well done and there is enough creativity to make it a success.  The comedy is also tempered with some Japanese social situations which are less than funny like the opposition to mixed relationships (we find out that the father of Mitsuko’s baby was “big and black”) and the economic crisis the country is going through. Also this is a very unJapanese way for a woman to act being all bossy and pushy. You could say that Ishii is making quite a feminist statement with his Mitsuko character.

Whimsical in its tone, Mitsuko Delivers is a film that does just that.  It is funny, quirky and heart-warming.

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