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Original Title:
Quiet room ni yôkoso

Japan 2007

Drama, Comedy

Suzuki Matsuo

Yuki Uchida
Yu Aoi
Kankuro Kudo
Yuko Nakamura
Shinobu Ootake
Hideaki Anno
Kami Hiraiwa
Rie Minemura
Katsuo Kawai
Erika Mabuchi
Mai Takahashi
Shinya Tsukamoto
Yu Tokui
Haruka Minowa
Haruna Kondo

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Welcome to the quiet Room

Story: Young female writer Sakura Asuka (Yuki Uchida) works for a comedy-channel. She has a hectical, yet seemingly happy life. However, one day she wakes up and finds herself in a mental hospital. She is tied to her bed and can't remember what exactly happened. Head-nurse Eguchi (Ryo) informs her, that she tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol. For three days she had been unconscious. Sakura tries to convince the nurse and her doctor that the whole thing is simply a misunderstanding and that she never would have tried to take her own life purposely. Furthermore, she has an important deadline to meet, which is why she wants to be released from hospital as soon as possible. But this proves to be everything but easy, even the more as her boyfriend Tetsuo (Kudo Kankuro) would have to give his ok first.
While Sakura slowly starts to make new friends at the mental hospital and is introduced to life at that facility by eating-disorder patient Miki (Yu Aoi), she slowly starts to remember what happened before her hospitalization. It seems as if Sakura's life wasn't actually that bright. Maybe she did have a good reason to kill herself...

Review: If you get to see a movie playing in a mental hospital then you never really know what to expect. That's even more true if the film is from Japan. Interestingly enough "Welcome to the quiet Room" doesn't prove to be as funny or off-beat as you might expect it to be. Especially at the beginning the movie follows the path of a comedy, and thus has to acquiesce being compared to Korean genre-entry "I'm a Cyborg but that's ok", yet towards the end the director weaves more and more dramatic elements into his movie. It's argueable if this is good enough reason to claim that the film makes an u-turn in some way, or if this is simply a way to show that insanity isn't just funny, but sad and tearshedding-worthy as well. Or the other way round. Personally, I found the turn from comedy to a more tragic and dramatic film towards the end well executed, as this element simply gives the movie more emotional impact and profoundness. Something I missed in the already mentioned Korean counterpart for example.

More than anything else "Welcome to the Quiet Room" manages very well not to put off the viewer with too wacky and abstract humor. There may be some slightly odd scenes, but anytime we come across such a moment we are aware of the fact that this is simply a dream sequence or something similar, so that it's easy for us to get along with it. Consequently, the movie at some points delivers candy-like and colorful pictures, without dragging the viewer too much into an abstract world, which he can't comprehend.
Director, as well as author of the novel the movie is based on, Suzuki Matsuo also manages to raise some tension by the use of a small but effective plot device. At first, we believe that Asuka didn't take an overdose of sleeping pills on purpose, but through flashbacks this assumption more and more gets into question. Asuka's life actually doesn't seem to be that happy as we might have been led to believe at first, and so the viewer with tension awaits the deep chasm that might be ahead for us to discover. Having said this, it's actually not that surprising that the film gets more dramatic in tone towards the end. And as already said this works quite well in favor for the movie.

The many flashbacks are well implemented into the movie, and let us understand certain scenes from the beginning only retrospectively. The mental hospital's inmates also get their time on screen, yet remain a bit shallow because of the limited running time. They are mainly responsible for bringing some humor into the film, even though some of them actually can win over our hearts in a pleasing way. Anyway, there are also some individuals among them who are important for the story. The most significant of them is Miki, who is played fantastically cute by Yu Aoi, dressed in modest gothic-clothes. She accompanies our protagonist through her wanderings along the corridors of the mental hospital and introduces her to the life in that facility. Even if the script just doesn't work enough with her character - we really would have liked to get to know more about her background story and the source of her eating disorder - Yu Aoi nonetheless manages to get the most out of her performance and sometimes even outshines Yuki Uchida.

Asuka is good-looking, leads a stressful life and has some serious issues with her parents. It's questionable what such a woman sees in a man like Tetsuo, a true oddball, who for whatever reasons is considered a comedian that is killingly funny, being pushed by a Japanese TV channel. Why she fell in love with him is beyond my capabilities. Tetsuo most likely simply serves as a cliché of the wacky kind of humor that isn't graspable for anyone, and makes a good part of typical Japanese sense of humor. But the fact that Asuka of all people falls in love with a person like that, tells us something significant about her character. Asuka flees her hard life and her not so bright past. Even before that she always made any effort to keep life's seriousness distant from her, by meeting with friends at brainless Karaoke-sessions for example. However, being at a mental hospital Asuka suddenly has to deal with her repressed past and gets to know herself better. The viewer accompanies her on her journey and finds a new, changed Asuka in the end. For this flawless change of Asuka's character Yuki Uchida truely derserves a word of praise.

As already stated, "Welcome to the quiet Room" has some funny scenes, but all in all the humor takes more often a backseat than what you might be expecting. Furthermore, for a Japanese movie dealing with this kind of topic, this comedy-drama proves to be unusually "unwacky". Which doesn't mean that you won't get to see off-the-wall stuff. There is at least one singing-and-dancing scene that found its way into the film. Still, as I said, you don't have to fear that you might get alienated by scenes like this. "Welcome to the quiet Room" draws the life of a woman, who has to cope with her past in order to clear the table to make way for a new beginning, in a surprisingly affecting manner. Asuka is lost in this world, which we also get to realize through the constant appearance of the story "The Wizard of Oz". Asuka, too, wants to clap her heels and get back to home. But there is one problem. She doesn't know where home exactly is...
"Welcome to the quiet Room" is an entertaining, but also touching film, which could win me over especially because of its captivating and unobtrusive drama. This is actually the better alternative to" I'm a Cyborg, but that's ok".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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