After their parents are killed in a violent road accident, Aime and Shinji Wago find themselves reluctantly reunited with their vindictive sister Sumika, who had left their rural mountain town for the bright lights of Tokyo in the hope of becoming a famous actress. Her abrupt arrival at the funeral not only triggers off a chronic asthma attack for Aime, but also reignites past family conflicts, sibling rivalry and domestic turmoil in director Daihachi Yoshida’s compelling black comedy.
Using the all too familiar frame of a typical Japanese domestic drama, Yoshida paints an entirely different picture that playfully subverts audience expectations. In bypassing convenient, sign posted, mainstream resolutions and soap opera melodramatics for a sincere realism and expertly drawn characterisations, Yoshida masterfully avoids predictability. With a deep strain of dark humour that borders on social satire, he never lets the bizarre plot developments and colourful surrealism become self-consciously quirky or compromise the narratives underlying poignancy, making each situation wholly believable. It’s also worth mentioning that for a film with a seemingly modest budget it contains some brilliantly accomplished cinematography courtesy of Masakazu Ato (Kamikaze Girls, Memories Of Matsuko). Throughout the film the province of Ishikawa (birthplace of Funuke’s author Yukiko Motoyo) is vividly captured with its serene and picturesque surroundings constantly at odds with the chaotic, dysfunctional lives of its isolated inhabitants.
Breathing new life into dramatic archetypes is an impressive and extremely talented cast of female leads: former bikini models Eriko Sato and Aimi Satsukawa, and ex-pop idol Hiromi Nagasaku all bring depth, dimension and plausibility to their characters. Sato is engaging as Sumika, the manipulative, ruthless, deluded but irresistible would-be actress desperate to escape the constraints of her small town upbringing. Satsukawa is excellent as Kyomi, the bullied, self-conscious, asthmatic younger sister compelled to express her true feelings through her dark and artistic imagination. The most memorable performance, however, comes from Nagasaku as Machiko – a downtrodden, abused, dutiful and hilariously tenacious housewife. The pivotal male role of Shinji, the reluctant patriarch, is portrayed with a world-weary intensity by Masatoshi Nagase (known to most western audiences as the Carl Perkins loving tourist from cult classic Mystery Train), who ensures that this brooding, abusive and most unsympathetic of all the characters is not completely bereft of compassion.
Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers completely transcends the clichés and trappings of a typical domestic drama, detailing a dysfunctional family on the verge of imploding. Deeply funny, moving and unsentimental, Daihachi Yoshida’s directorial debut is an exceptionally entertaining and endearing piece of contemporary cinema.