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Gravity's Clowns - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jyuryoku Pierrot

Japan 2009

Mystery, Drama

Junichi Mori

Ryo Kase
Masaki Okada
Fumiyo Kohinata
Kyoka Suzuki
Atsuro Watabe
Yuriko Yoshitaka
Yoshinori Okada

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Gravity's Clowns

aka A Pierrot

Story: Izumi (Ryo Kase) studies at an university and his younger brother Haru (Masaki Okada), having always been the stronger one of the two, makes some money by cleaning building walls. The two have a good relationship with their father (Fumiyo Kohinata), who works as a beekeeper. One day there happens to be a series of arson cases and Haru's eye catches a crucial detail that the police missed. At every scene a fire has been started there has also been a graffiti painting on the wall which Haru had to remove. Luckily, he has made some pictures of the graffiti so that he can get together the words which were on the walls. Apparently, it is some kind of message, but it doesn't make any sense. Haru gets his smarter brother on board and the two try to solve the mystery of the arsonist. Together they stake out the scene where the last graffiti has been painted in order to catch the arsonist red-handed. However, this turns out to be more difficult than imagined. But Izumi gets aware of another detail in the culprit's message...

Review: "Gravity's Clowns" is a nice mystery drama which almost strikes a perfect balance between melancholy and love of life. In its core it is a life-affirming movie, though, which can open up your heart. Reason for that is a family bond which actually results from the fact that not everything is perfect. But apart from the drama we also get a mystery thriller in which the two brother slowly start to uncover the identity of an arsonist. It doesn't always have to be a serial killer to get the audience's attention. The movie works quite fine the way it is thanks to numerous twists and in the end even manages to surprise us by questioning from an ethical view what is good and what evil. Do the things that we ethically find unproblematic coincide with the country's legal system?

Gravity's Clowns - Film Screenshot 11

The well-written plot is based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka whose books have already been adapted as "Sweet Rain" and the great "Fish Story". The stories of the bestselling author simply beg to be put on screen. Particularly since his characters are well elaborated. Yet, often you need to be willing to work with the subtle, but great acting here if you don't want to miss anything. Especially the dialogues demand your full attention. You aren't handed everything on a silver platter, particularly when it comes to the emotions of the protagonists you have to be attentive. Fortunately, this also means that "Gravity's Clown" is not a melodrama but has more of a naturalistic touch about it.

Gravity's Clowns - Film Screenshot 12

Ryo Kase ("About Love") delivers a very nice performance as the older brother, one that is everything but cliché-ridden. Because often it is his younger brother, played by Masaki Okada ("Confessions"), who seems braver and stronger. But in fact it is Izumi, who gives Haru strength in his very own subtle way. The story's center and pivotal point is thus the relationship between the brothers and Masaki Okada manages particularly well to shape the relationship as complex as the movie needs it. Fumiyo Kohinata ("Outrage Beyond") as the father is allowed to play some very intense scenes as well, which once again stress the invisible bond that keeps the family together despite all adversities.

There are some strokes of fate in "Gravity's Clowns" that need to be overcome, yet they are introduced surprisingly unpretentious and therefore have an even greater impact, be it the raping of the mother or the cancer illness of the father. Although there is no graphic violence depicted at all the film can be quite tough to digest at times, which is due to the themes explored. In the end we also see ourselves be confronted with the fact that we don't have any moral objections concerning the illegal actions of one of the protagonists at all. The more fascinating is the road the mystery drama takes towards the end, since in most stories the drama would have ended differently on screen. Kotaro Isaka's plot thus succeeds in being surprising and working beyond well-known formulas.

Gravity's Clowns - Film Screenshot 13

The mystery story is also quite suspenseful, yet sometimes throughout the movie we are already pretty much aware of what's going on when the protagonists are presenting the results of their investigation very proudly and elaborately. Sometimes you also wonder why the mystery plot is playing only the second fiddle. More than once it is made obvious that the character drama is supposed to be in the focus of the film and that the mystery around the arsonist and the raping is just an appendix. Unfortunately, the ending isn't completely well done since things drag on after everything is already settled and done which gives "Gravity's Clowns" something anticlimactic. Despite the obvious bumps in the road this mystery drama still manages to give you a cozy smile on your face. "Gravity's Clowns" may have its quirks, but you still can't do much wrong with it.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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