Mitsuko Delivers ("Hara Ga Kore Nande")
“Charmingly quirky” — SCREEN DAILY
Alone, broke, and nine months pregnant, Mitsuko Hara becomes a force to be reckoned with in this enigmatic comedy from Yuya Ishii, director of SAWAKO DECIDES (Fantasia’s 2010 jury prize for Best Film). Abandoned by her American boyfriend and dodging her parents who believe she’s happily living the American dream in California, Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) follows the path of a wandering cloud and soon finds her way back to the Tokyo neighbourhood that shaped her tenacious outlook on life. Time has stood still in this run-down quarter. Mitsuko moves in with her bedridden former landlady, Granny, who awaits death — either from old age or the unexploded WWII bombshell under the floorboards. Ultimately, all are beholden to Mitsuko and her selfless, whimsical ways. She brings her magical touch to the deserted local restaurant, run by the taciturn Yoichi, who harbours a childhood crush on Mitsuko, and continues to care for Granny alongside his uncle Jiro, himself a victim of unrequited love for the local coffee shop owner.
In MITSUKO DELIVERS, life isn’t about winning or losing, but simply appreciating the way someone lives their life and helping them succeed. As the story develops, it becomes clear that this overarching theme is in fact an aspirational mission statement for a new outlook on Japanese life. Ishii’s eighth film is an intriguing, subtly incisive examination of Japanese history. The lingering weight of the postwar American presence is felt in both Mitsuko’s absentee boyfriend and the dormant bombshell; a trip to a post-nuclear Fukushima ends with the promise of new life. This is a Japan still in recovery from the devastating consequences of war and disaster — while filled with whimsy, MITSUKO DELIVERS is never without weight, as this charismatic collection of characters struggle with the crippling forces of economic devastation that have left them mere shells of their past selves. In the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the only solution is to help each other find the way to redemption and renewal. With a luminous lead performance by Naka (who can also be seen at Fantasia this year in LOVE STRIKES!), MITSUKO DELIVERS is a poignant, beautifully wrought comedic commentary on Japanese life for the past, present and future.
— Lindsay Peters