BFI London Film Festival 2012 – ‘Dreams For Sale’, a modestly played, humorous and occasionally moving drama

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Dreams For Sale (Yume uru futari )

Directed by Miwa Nishikawa

Written by Miwa Nishikawa

Starring Yûsuke Iseya, Teruyuki Kagawa, Takako Matsu, Rena Tanaka

The financial downturn continues to provide fresh ingredients, more food for though in this bittersweet Japanese comedy drama, in which a stuggiling  couple have just suffered an economic tragedy as an accidental fire has gutted their modest Shibuya situated izakaya restaurant. Kanya (Yûsuke Iseya) and Satoko’s (Teruyuki Kagawa) marriage was already under financial and emotional strain, and a night of lonely drinking leads to Satoko to sleep with a drunk woman he meets on the subway, the next morning she convinces him to take a stack of yen and put it too good use, as it was guiltily donated to her by her mortally sick lover unbeknownst to his wife and children. Initially furious  Kanya suddenly has an eureka moment, and wonders if lightning can strike twice with her husband preying on lonely and disaffected young singletons, extracting money from them to pay for imagined medical expenses following fake marriage proposals, the duplicitous couple pouring the proceeds into their expensive new restaurant venture – with the intention of paying them in kind of course once they’ve achieved financial success. Naturally all does not go to plan, and soon the web weaved by their confidence tricks begins to unravel as more marks are added to the scheme…..

This rather languid but moving drama takes its time to establish its criminal enterprise, and its to Nishikawa’s credit that they have broiled a convincing tale where desperate and still likable people have had their decency compromised by the current fiscal failures. The film achieves moments with a genuine moving power, as the limping lonely struggle with the conforming, pressured standards of contemporary life, perhaps not wanting to marry and rear children but still plagued with unconsious ostracisation from family, friends and the wider grip of society. The wounding deceptions are scored to a light drift of guitar ballads, a soothing and gentle portrait of 21st century Tokyo, reminding one of the lyrical musical backdrop to Alexanders Payne’s The Descendants, in fact the whole film reminds one of Payne’s light and nuanced comedies, with enough pathos and character development to sate the adult movie fan. It’s also something of a international tale, Japan isn’t the only first world economy grappling with an unusual development of demographics, with more twenty and thirty-somethings turning their backs on the traditional gender roles of child-rearing and breadwinner, and being forced to remain in their childhood homes due to the economic constraints of the financial Armageddon whose ripples still reverberate around the shrinking globe.

Whilst it’s a little difficult to swallow Satako as some tasty gigolo the film is a modestly played, humorous and occasionally moving drama, with the performance of a lonely Olympic powerlifter being particularly saddening as she finds it difficult to harbour male attention due to her masculine appearance, one of a number of exasperated young woman who drift aimlessly through their isolating, soul bruised lives. Dreams For Sale is a fine reminder that there is more to Japanese cinema than feuding yakuza, stoic samurai or humongous mechanoids vapourising some futuristic megalopolis – the usual international fare that manages to find a foothold in foreign markets – and one things for sure, after the credits roll you’ll be struggling to get over to the nearest Sushi joint for some delicious pieces of Sashimi….

John McEntee

The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs Oct. 10th  – 21st.  Please visit the festival’s official website for a complete schedule of films, screening times, and further information on Dreams For Sale.

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