If you liked Yuya Ishii's clever comedy Sawako Decides, there's a very good chance that you'll also enjoy his latest feature, Mitsuko Delivers. Third Window Films has singled out Ishii has a comic director to look out for, and there aren't many labels as good at identifying talent as they are. This film shares a lot of the same tone and themes as Ishii's previous film, but shows a bit of growth as well, making Mitsuko Decides every bit as entertaining and charming as it's predecessor. Third Window delivers the goods again, and if you enjoy their catalog, I'm pretty sure you'll get a kick out of Mitsuko Decides.
Mitsuko is nine months pregnant with no man in sight, no home, no prospects, and no fear. She lives her life with the singular goal of achieving a level of "cool" that she has chased for decades. When she moves back to Japan after a jaunt in California, she runs into a number of lost souls and decides that her energy will best be spent on improving the lives of those around her, in order to attain her own "cool". While those around her spin webs of craziness, Mitsuko assures them that their destinies are in their own hands. Mitsuko delivers calm, joy, and sanity to all of those around her, and Mitsuko Delivers is a charming tale of self-determination to win over even the most pessimistic of souls.
The key to this wonderful little film is the performance of Naka Riisa (Zebraman 2) as Mitsuko. Her performance is nuanced yet blunt is its depiction of a woman who is just tired of everyone around her going to pieces at every inconvenience. So tired, in fact, that she frequently drops whatever she's doing to nap at the drop of a hat. Unlike her overly broad work as the Zebra Queen in Takashi Miike's Zebraman 2, Naka is able to convey a wealth of emotions through a very spartan script and a wonderfully expressive face. It wasn't until I started doing a bit of reading in preparation for this review that I even realized that she was the same actress, the roles are 180 degrees apart, and it impressed me even more.
Mitsuko Delivers shares a lot with Sawako Decides apart from both films having a two word title. Both films have leading characters who are women who lead wandering souls to their promised land. Granted, in Sawako Decides, it isn't until the very end of the film that Sawako becomes self-aware and accepts her role in her own happiness and that of the people around her, but it happens nonetheless. Director Yuya Ishii seems to have a knack for writing these strong, conflicted female characters who act on their mothering instincts with those around them, and I can't wait to see what he does next, although part of me hopes he spreads his wings a little bit and challenges himself.
Between the great performance by Naka Riisa, some wonderful supporting turns by Ryo Ishibashi, Aoi Nakamura, and others, and the great script and direction of Yuya Ishii, Mitsuko Delivers is a joy to watch, and only occasionally seems to lag in spite of a somewhat lengthy 110 minute run time. This is a great little movie and we all owe Third Window a debt of gratitude for giving us in he west the opportunity to enjoy it. Great stuff, recommended!
Third Window's DVD of Mitsuko Delivers is very good. The image upconverted on my Blu-ray player very nicely, without the usual softness that accompanies low budget features. The colors are bright, the image is sharp, and I have no complaints. The audio is not exactly the kind of track that will wake the neighbors, in fact, if I have any complaint about this disc it is that the dialogue appears to be mixed very low, resulting in my having to crank the volume pretty high to get a decent level. That said, there are no pops or hisses, and the dialogue, once adjusted to the proper volume, seems very clear.
In addition to the original Japanese theatrical trailer, Third Window has also ported over a "making of" featurette that includes numerous interviews with Naka Riisa, Yuya Ishii, and Aoi Nakamura, as well as many other members of the supporting cast. It won't make you reevaluate the film, but in this case, I think it helps to give the feature a bit more depth and helped me to appreciate what I saw in this "cool" little film.
I loved this, I loved Sawako Decides, and I can always trust Third Window to deliver. Definitely worth the money!
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