Kako: My Sullen Past is a film that tells you life is boring. Even with the numerous odd events taking place, our titular character (Fumi Nikaido) only begins to notice the wonders of her life when her aunt, Mikiko (Kyoko Koizumi, a Kiyoshi Kurosawa favorite), reappears after being reported dead for years. Unfortunately, the movie never fully develops the idea of the change this event should affect on Kako. Neither does director Shiro Maeda have a lot of faith in his images, relying too heavily on exposition and direct explanation, while also wrongly assuming the film’s more wooly story elements can overcome the burden of weak characterization. Kako isn’t even really a character in the film that’s been titled after her; instead, she’s a facile vessel for angsty teen movie tropes. You’ve seen this film before: teen opens up to the world around them thanks to the influence of a quirky adult friend. Maeda attempts to invoke some originality with a bomb threat and a kidnapping, but he doesn’t manage to hide the derivativeness at his film’s core.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2016 | Dispatch 2.