Yukihiko Tsutsumi's melodrama about a high-powered advertising executive succumbing to Alzheimer's disease, adapted from a novel by Hiroshi Ogiwara, veers regularly into disease-of-the-week territory but is rescued by the powerhouse performances of Ken Watanabe (who was instrumental in getting the film made) and Kanako Higuchi.
The film opens in 2010, with Masayuki Saeki (Watanabe) and his wife, Emiko (Higuchi), in the neat, spare living room of a small house. As the glassy-eyed Masayuki gazes absently into space, Emiko quietly sips a cup of tea and watches the stunning sunset. Flashback to 2004: The 49-year-old Masayuki (Watanabe) is a high-powered salaryman who's devoted his life to his work at a prestigious advertising agency, neglecting Emiko and their daughter, Rie (Kazue Fukiishi), who has finally emerged from a lengthy rebellious period. Granted, Masayuki is quietly angry that she's pregnant and will be showing by the time she marries her respectful fiance, Naoya (Kenji Sakaguchi), but at least they're getting married. Masayuki has snared a lucrative new account, a youth-oriented clothing line called Giga Force, and is cracking the whip over his team of eager young admen and -women, who must devise an unprecedented, multiplatform campaign for the company. And then little things begin to go wrong. Masayuki forgets an important meeting and gets lost on the way to another, even though it's only a few blocks from his office in a building he's been to many times before, and can't remember the name "Leonardo DiCaprio." He loses face for his company and becomes depressed and anxious; Emiko finally persuades him to see a doctor, who comes back with a stunning diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Masayuki's rapidly progressing disease leads to his demotion, forces Emiko to reenter the job market and raises the possibility that he won't be able to give a speech at Rie's wedding. As Masayuki's short-term memory erodes, he's thrown back to his memories of meeting Emiko in pottery class and the early years of their marriage. With what's left of his faculties, he begins looking into a care facility, anticipating the day when he'll be too great a burden for Emiko to bear.
For all the tear-jerking, Watanabe doesn't succumb to the warm-and-fuzzy as Masayuki's memory reduces him to utter dependence on others he's proud and pig-headed to the last, but certain softer qualities make their way to the surface. Higuchi is simply stunning as Emiko, who's devoted without being saintly and gradually finds her footing in a radically changed relationship with her husband.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
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- Review: Yukihiko Tsutsumi's melodrama about a high-powered advertising executive succumbing to Alzheimer's disease, adapted from a novel by Hiroshi Ogiwara, veers regularly into disease-of-the-week territory but is rescued by the powerhouse performances of Ken Wat… (more)