Ieji / The Way Home / 家路
Nao Kubota’s premier feature, Ieji, has a great premise, a host of great actors and particularly cogent message for post 3.11 Japan, but falls flat in its unisnspired direction and its length. Not that Kubota’s heart isn’t in the right place. The story pits Jiro (Kenichi Matsuyama) and his brother, Soichi (Masaaki Uchino) against the reality of life in the shadows of the Fukushima meltdown. Jiro, young, single, with a troubled past has moved back within the no-man’s zone surrounding the stricken reactor to rebuild and replant. His older brother, Soichi, is still living in cramped temporary housing with his wife (Sakura Ando), daughter and mother (Yuko Tanaka). The conflicts around individual and collective responsibility, family ties and the future of Tohoku are given the perfect opportunity to be played out. Even with his incredibly fine cast, though, Kubota doesn’t give them much room to breathe deeply, though he give them plenty of Ozu-ish time to appear meaningful. Flat and flawed as it is, Ieji is still better than most films dealing with 3.11.
Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2014.