When her son is killed in Nagasaki by the atomic bomb that ended World War II, Nobuko (Sayuri Yoshinaga), an elderly midwife faces life alone—that is, until her son’s (Kazunari Ninomiya) spirit returns to keep her company. Once preoccupied by a search for closure, Nobuko is now able to reconnect, to reminisce about the good times, and move on, as she and her son learn the virtue of letting go together. But Nagasaki: Memories of My Son is a film filled with as much beauty and pathos as it is hoary cliche. It’s at once a touching tribute to a mother’s love for her son and a baldly manipulative piece of emotional pablum. Director Yôji Yamada never quite seems to find the balance of magical realism he seeks, blunting his film’s emotional impact, while mostly ignoring the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust that enveloped Nagasaki. Yet Yoshinaga and Ninomiya find small moments of truth and humanity in an otherwise weak screenplay.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2016 | Dispatch 3.