Hirokazu Kore-eda has quickly become one of the most revered and respected figures in modern Japanese cinema – not an easy feat with colleagues like Naomi Kawase and Mamoru Hosoda. Though he’s best known in the West for films like Shoplifters and Like Father, Like Son, his subtle, domestically oriented style can also be found in his lesser known TV series. That’s why the first episode of his mini-series A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura feels like such a rare treat – not only does it show a side of the director unfamiliar to many outside of Japan, but it’s also a delightful debut episode in its own right, with a perfect mix of quirkiness and sincerity.
Even if the name Kasumi Arimura doesn’t ring any bells, the premise of the show is intriguing – playing a fictionalised version of herself, Arimura has some time off from filming a project to spend quality time with her mother, finding out more about her family in the process. Though I’m not overly familiar with Arimura’s screen persona, she plays an endearingly flawed and three-dimensional version of herself here, simultaneously loving and upbeat while still easily succumbing to jealousy and a degree of self-centredness. The relationship with her mother is fleshed out well in the 45 minute running time, as is her family history and resulting emotional development. From the start, I found myself wanting to spend longer in Kasumi’s ordinary yet strangely irresistible world.
The aesthetic falls in-line with many of Kore-eda’s other works: low key, detail focused, and within the realm of the domestic (a style that is frequently and flatteringly compared to that of Yasujiro Ozu). Though this obviously works wonderfully for feature films, there is a certain cosiness in A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura that stems from its TV status – you just want to curl up with a bowl of soup and settle into her home. This is also greatly helped by the focus on food and domestic tasks that are both visually appealing and beneficial for the show as something of a comfort watch. This isn’t to say that the show is overly simple – from this episode alone, themes are introduced that challenge concepts of family relationships, particularly those in Japan that tend to be more rigid.
Without spoiling too much, the revelations that Kasumi experiences on her day off are a superb set-up for the rest of the series, and I hope that I am able to access it from the UK to finish her story. The way the show plays with the diegetic and non-diegetic life of its protagonist was almost reminiscent of works like Being John Malkovich, albeit far less heavy, removing the veneer of celebrity myth to access something more human. Overall, A Day Off Of Kasumi Arimura felt like coming home after a long day both literally and thematically, and I can’t wait to see how it continues.
A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura plays at the London Film Festival.
You can read more of our LFF coverage here.
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