Slightly uneven in tone, slightly baffling in the way it builds comedy out of realistic family violence, Yoshida Daihachi’s Funuke: Show Some Love You Losers boasts impressive performances and enough stylistic zing to mark Yoshida as a film maker to keep an eye on.
Think your family’s messed up? You aint seen nothing until you meet the Wago clan. A working class rural family, we meet the Wagos following the death of the parents who are killed when a truck swerves out of the road to avoid killing a cat. There is Kiyomi, the shy and asthmatic teen traumatized from witnessing the deaths of her parents. There is elder brother Shinji, who cuts wood and burns it to charcoal for a living. There is Machiko, the wife Shinji barely knows, having brought her to the country from Tokyo via an agency – a multiple award winning performance from Nagasaku Hiromi. And, finally, there is Sumika, the brutally self centered elder sister played with relentless cruelty by Cutie Honey’s Erika Sato, who returns home for the funeral from a failed attempt at becoming an actress and promptly presents her younger sister with the gift of a stuffed cat. “Isn’t that a little inappropriate?” the sweet natured Machiko wonders, concerned for the feelings of her young sister in law, only to be rebuffed by Shinji who coldly tells her to stay out of family business. Clearly there is history here and it’s not good.
A tangled mess of grudges, old arguments, jealousy, violence, sexual deviance and just about anything else you’d care to throw in the pot the Wago family is living proof that you can’t judge anybody by their exterior and while the internal battle rages poor Machiko is left on the outside as an intimate observer, caught in the crossfire of battle she doesn’t understand while gamely trying to maintain a happy and chipper demeanor. She’s the only one truly innocent in this mess and so, of course, she takes the brunt of the abuse.
That content like this would be played for any sort of comedy at all is a bit awkward and troubling but when Yoshida goes down that road he does with a such a dark streak that it’s clearly intended only as a means to break the tension, the brutality of Sato’s Sumika would be simply unbearable without something to lighten the tension. Essentially a chamber drama built around four characters Yoshida draws strong performances out of his leads and displays an impressive, if somewhat uneven, visual style. Funuke is an uneven work but one that travels well on the strength of its cast, particularly Nagasaku who provides a very much needed note of likable humanity.