Wakaranai / Where Are You? / ワカラナイ
With Wakaranai, Director Kobayashi Masahiro, mines similar territory as his brilliant 2005 breakout film, Bashing. Like the Dardennes, Kobayashi relentlessly explores the tragedies of the marginalized. Wakaranai revels in the boring streets, the cramped and rundown apartments and konbinis that make up much of the contemporary Japanese landscape. The young hero, played with animal intensity by Kobayashi Yuto – the director’s own son – loses his convenience store job and soon after, his mother. Left on his own, he dreams of escaping in a abandoned boat. Escape, though, is the rough streets of Tokyo in search of his lost father – remarried with a new family of his own. The father and son reunion (the director plays the father) falls a little flat in an otherwise relentless and touching journey from absolute misery to a flickering of hope. But the journey itself, beautifully and brutally realized with an anxious hand-held camera and the completely convincing performance of Kobayashi Yuto that adds to Kobayashi Masahiro’s growing canon of great films.
Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2009