Story: Eiji Shimakura (Ken Takakura) works at a prison workshop. He also makes use of his craftsmanship
to reconstruct the interior of his car. He wants to travel through Japan with his wife (Yuko Tanaka) when she gets well
again. However, is wife doesn't get well in the end. After she died he falls into a deep abyss. Then he holds a letter from
his wife in his hands which tells him that she wants her ashes to be scattered into the ocean near her hometown. His
wife never told him about this wish of hers before and thus he is a bit bewildered. So he goes on a trip to her hometown,
also because she wrote that there is another letter waiting for him there. On his trip Shimakura meets some
interesting individuals like the former teacher Sugino (Takeshi Kitano) who enlightens him about the difference between
traveling and wandering the country. The young man Tamiya (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi), who he acommpanies to a food fair, manages
with his pushy nature to help him on his journey of coping with his wife's death, too.
Review: Most of the time modern Japanese cinema leads a rather secluded life on certain film festivals
that are still willing to give the naturalistic stories with their subtle messages the time they need to unfold
on screen. "Dearest" is such a drama that will appeal to genre fans who are into more mature stories. "Dearest" is a
trip that demands a bit of patience and even though you might not know whether there is actually a goal to reach at the
end of this trip the experience you gain during the trip already makes it a worthwhile one. With a little bit of patience and interest
in the important questions of life, like how to deal with loss and the search for a goal in life, on your part you won't
get disappointed by this movie.
The motive of traveling is omnipresent and also a central aspect is the question whether Shimakura in fact is traveling,
meaning that he has a place to return to, or if he is wandering the country after all. On his way he meets several individuals
with whom he spends time in one way or another. Shimakura can always take something important with him from these
encounters, eventually helping him on his way. At first it seems as if the encounters give the movie some sort of episodic
nature, but thankfully this is avoided in the end since most of the characters haven't just one single scene. You also
shouldn't wonder that there are some well known faces to be seen in otherwise completely neglectable roles.
Next to Takeshi Kitano ("Outrage", "Hana-Bi") and Tadanobu Asano
("Last Life in the Universe") in a cameo there is also Haruka Ayase
("Ichi") and more famous actors to be seen. No one of them forces himself too much into the foreground, though.
That's the achievement of the very much down-to-earth screenplay and lead actor Ken Takakura's quiet, but consistently
strong screen presence. "Dearest" has a minimalistic plot, but it becomes more complex through the well elaborated
characters, who all carry the weight of life in their own way without the film becoming unnecessarily depressing.
Accordingly, it's thanks to the characters that you continue being interested in the story despite the rather slow
Surprisingly there is even a nice twist towards the end that you wouldn't expect after all, although it doesn't concern the main plot. The actual story is constantly accompanied by some question marks which are the result of the wife's behavior. Who was this woman and what does she intend to achieve with her letter? The drama leaves us with unanswered questions, but a lot of things concerning the wife need to be read between the lines. There are occasionally flashbacks to her past she shared with Shimakura - and they aren't always woven into the rest of the movie in a chronological order - but thanks to well done editing they are always apparent as such and never make accessing the movie more difficult than necessary as you may be used to see from similar works.
Director Yasuo Furuhata is a veteran in film business and accordingly he directs the movie with a steady hand. Sometimes there are nicely shot pictures to be seen in which there has been made good use of colors, but at the bottom line Yasuo never wants to divert from the story with his directing. He has already shot several movies with lead actor Ken Takakura ("Railroad Man", "The Firefly") and they have a certain routine - not in a negative way - which the movie benefits from. However, the pacing of "Dearest" is rather slow which is why the drama won't appeal to everyone. But the motives are appealing and particularly with its ending and undeniable worldly wisdom implemented "Dearest" will manage to give you a pleasant shiver.