Fantasia 2012: ‘A Boy And His Samurai’ a sweet, whimsical, funny, poignant, family fantasy
Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura
Screenplay by Yoshihiro Nakamura
Director Yoshihiro Nakamura really caught the attention of the Sound On Sight staff with his 2009 end-of-the-world punk rock film Fish Story. Last year, he made the equally impressive conspiracy thriller, Golden Slumber. Now he’s back, only this time he takes a radical turn and brings us a quiet, character-driven family film. This is a film about the interconnectedness of all aspects of our existence and finding splendour in the smallest but most rewarding tasks. Nakamura sees the connections that make this world so absurd and so beautiful, and finds equally beautiful ways to dramatize those moments into something more meaningful, in its juxtaposition of the fantastic and the everyday. Samurai may be predictable and formulaic, but in a like-ably off-kilter way.
Based on a popular manga by Gen Araki and scripted by Nakamura, A Boy And His Samurai is a fish out of water story, about a samurai (Shiori Kutsuna) who unwillingly travels to present day Japan, befriends a boy and his mother, takes on the role of their babysitter, cook and housekeeper, and eventually enters a father-son cake-making contest which leads him to become the hottest new pastry chef in town.
This remarkably low-key, small-scale film is a single-mom’s fantasy about finding the perfect man, and a little boy’s longing for a father figure in his life. Yet give credit to Nakamura, who doesn’t degrade Rie Tomosaka’s character to be defined by her lack of a man. Here, she plays a strong working single mother who takes pride in her achievements and ably balances her work and home life. While Kutsuna and Tomosaka share great chemistry, its the father-son, samurai-schoolboy bonding that carries a good chunk of the pic’s charm. Fuku Suzuki is almost too young to be called an actor, but he’s absolutely adorable here, continuously pulling a laugh from where you least expect it.
A Boy And His Samurai combines three things I love watching onscreen: time travel, samurais and baking-themed reality TV. I dare you not to fall in love with this sweet, whimsical, funny, poignant, family fantasy. A Boy And His Samurai may just be the best family film I’ve seen all year.