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My Man - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Watashi no Otoko

Japan 2014


Kazuyoshi Kumakiri

Tadanobu Asano
Fumi Nikaido
Tatsuya Fuji
Aoba Kawai
Kengo Kora
Morooka Moro
Mochika Yamada
Itsuki Sagara

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My Man

Story: Little girl Hana is aimlessly wandering through the chaos created by a tsunami. She eventually finds her parents' bodies. By chance, she also runs into Jungo (Tadanobu Asano), who knew Hana's mother, and Jungo decides to adopt the girl. Years later Jungo is in a relationship with Komachi (Aoba Kawai), but the woman is worried about Jungo and his close relationship with Hana (Fumi Nikaido). After Hana tells Komachi that the woman doesn't know at all what Jungo really needs, stating that only she can be the kind of family he is longing for, it doesn't take long until Jungo dumps Komachi. However, no one else in the snow-covered village on Hokkaido seems to be worried about the relationship between Jungo and Hana. Until the village elder Oshio (Tatsuya Fuji), Komachi's grandfather, witnesses something that leaves no room for interpretation anymore. Now, Hana fears that her father might be taken away from her and so she is resolved to do something, which eventually make her father's and her own life turn more and more into a subtle nightmare.

Review: "My Man" has the lolita theme in its core, which, to be honest, isn't really anything new anymore. But the film stands out with an at times enormously dense atmosphere. Particularly because of its snow-covered landscape of Hokkaido and the sea with its countless ice floes it manages to take us into a dream-like scenery, which over and over again descends into a true nightmare. Still, despite extremely good actors and nice pictures it remains a fact that in the end the drama takes too much time to tell its story and thus also may seem rather self-admiring. The slow pacing, especially at the beginning, gets tiresome and is only counterbalanced later on when the tension, which arises from the relationship between Jungo and Hana, increases. Therefore, "My Man" is more art house than it needed to be.

My Man - Film Screenshot 11

For quite a while it is a mystery what kind of relationship exactly father and daughter have. There are indications on a regular basis, e.g. Jungo who dumps his girlfriend or Hana, who isn't really excited about Jungo going to sea whereas she sounds more like a worried lover than a little daughter. At some point there is certainty, though, and the imaginary rain of blood that accompanies a certain scene is probably a symbolic hint at the two being prepared to protect their relationship in the future by all means necessary. But what is the actual taboo after all? In the end, Hana is just adopted and even though she may not really be of full age yet and Jungo having educational responsibility the two could in some way justify their relationship in front of each other, couldn't they? Well, things aren't that easy...

My Man - Film Screenshot 12

In fact, the two know that what they do is forbidden and wrong. Like a dismal feeling this knowledge accompanies the whole film. It gets even worse, because the incestuous nature of the relationship could be pretty real after all. Not only Jungo's relationship with Hana's mother could have been more intimate than we first assumed, but Hana herself states that her body knows that Jungo is her father. And yet she wants to protect their relationship. Ultimately, this leads to problems that go hand in hand with radical changes. The story based on a novel by Kazuki Sakuraba is more suspensful than you would think at first, thanks to very nicely elaborated characters. Deserving special praise is that the individuals seem emotionally distant, but then again show some extreme emotions, too, making them not your typical art house protagonists.

It is safe to assume that Tadanobu Asano ("Villon's Wife", "Vengeance Can Wait") is responsible for the best acting moments, you might assume. But even though he delivers a very nice performance Fumi Nikaido ("Why Don't You Play in Hell?", "Himizu") is the real star. Her acting is finely nuanced and she sketches a character who at first leads us through her first teenager years with her giggly laughter and then portrays a girl that is early-maturing, yet not being really an adult yet. Later on her adult alter ego even has something inscrutable about her so that it seems almost incredible that Fumi Nikaido manages to bring all these changes of character on screen by herself.

My Man - Film Screenshot 13

Director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri without a doubt knows how to make his pictures speak for him. Not only the extremely cold Hokkaido takes us into a strangely secure world in which the relationship of Jungo and Hana is a disruptive factor that turns into a nightmare. Particularly, the use of lighting as well as the sound effects manage to create a very intense mood that at times even remind you of a horror film. The leaps in time - sometimes scenes from a different time level are shown parellel to the one we are actually looking at - hit us without a warning, but a reorientation is easily possible.
In the end, "My Man" proves to be an interesting drama which taboo subject doesn't only wear down its protagonists. The last 40 minutes the story develops with a good pacing, too, but before that the film turns out to go too slow despite a fantastic atmosphere.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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