Director Ryuichi Hiroki has a very particular genius. While many others can out do him in terms of camera work and technical chops there are few, if any, working in the world today who are more gifted at drawing shockingly intimate performances out of his stars. With It's Only Talk Hiroki reteams with Shinobu Terajima, the star of his break out film Vibrator, to spectacular effect.
A pure character study with very little in the way of plot It's Only Talk is built entirely around Terajima's performance as Yuko, a single, thirty five year old woman with a severe case of manic depression who largely dropped out of society upon her parent's death six years previous and has been living off the insurance payout ever since. The film follows her life as she interacts with four different men in her life. There is the self described pervert who she meets online, a young yakuza thug with a similar ailment to Yuko's own who finds her through a mental health website, an impotent former college friend turned politician, and her cousin Shoichi who she shares a rocky history with and who has relationship issues of his own.
As if it needed reinforcement after her performance in Vibrator Terajima here confirms that she is an absolutely fearless performer, complete open to the camera and willing to appear flawed and damaged. The film follows Yuko through both manic and depressive cycles and Terajima is stellar throughout, by turns a beautiful, effervescent woman and a woman crushed under the weight of her own history and illness. There is no glamor in her performance, just a deep seated sense of honesty. And strong as Terajima's performance is she is matched step for step by veteran character actor Etsushi Toyokawa as her cousin Shoichi. Toyokawa is one of those actors seen often but seldom given the chance to shine and between this film and his appearance in Jiyuu Renai (Bluestockings) he is having something of a breakout year.
Hiroki shoots the film in a nearly documentary style, the camera almost always handheld, following Yuko everywhere as he sketches out his portrait of this damaged woman trying to survive and find meaning in the world. Perhaps Hiroki's greatest strength is his willingness to simply observe without forcing resolution onto things. While Yuko does make some progress trhoughout the film the progress comes through pain and there is nothing even approaching a neat resolution. Hiroki is a director willing to challenge both his actors and his audience and in his sure hands it is hugely rewarding for all involved. The slow pace and general lack of external action will frustrate some but those willing to invest and go where Hiroki is taking them will be astounded. Many consider Vibrator a masterwork, this is better.