In Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence, Joe Odagiri plays Shiraiwa, an apparently lost man attempting to rebuild his life and studying carpentry at a vocational school he bicycles to everyday from a tiny house on the outskirts of town. A quiet loner,Shiraiwa’s dragged out for a drink one night with a classmate and meets Satoshi (Yû Aoi), a beautiful woman with a fondness for imitating the calls and mating rituals of various bird species. A kind of manic depressive pixie dream girl, Satoshi eventually seduces Shiraiwa, but then flips out on him.
We learn the man’s backstory, but hers is only ever hinted at; in fact, we learn less about her than we do many of Shiraiwa’s classmates, including a reformed yakuza, a retired bartender, and a young man enacting a low-key version of Full Metal Jacket. This unfortunately makes Over the Fence, for most of its running time, dramatically less compelling than Yamashita’s last feature, La La La at Rock Bottom, let alone his 2005 film Linda Linda Linda, one of the very best movies of this century so far. Thankfully, Yamashita excels at endings: there’s some kind of magic when this occasionally funny, but mostly depressing, not-quite love story suddenly turns into a stealth remake/inversion of The Natural.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2017.