TIFF 2016: The Long Excuse Review

Special Presentations 

QUEEN GERTRUDE
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET
‘Seems,’ madam? Nay it is. I know not ‘seems.’
[…]
These indeed ‘seem,’
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passeth show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
(1.2.78-89)

Directed by Miwa Nishikawa, The Long Excuse is a study in the “trappings and suits of woe” and how grief affects two men and two children. Your enjoyment of the film will hinge on whether or not you can forgive the actions taken by the two very desperate and lost men.

Masahiro Motoki and Eri Fukatsu play Sachio and Natsuko Kinugasa, a couple long past their expiry date. The first scene, involving a haircut (Natsuko is a hairdresser), is a masterclass in drunken pointed barbs and unfulfilled desires. The wife leaves just as Sachio’s mistress enters, and the wife dies just as Sachio is blissfully lost in the throes of lovemaking. This film is then about the attempts of Sachio and another man, Yoichi (Pistol Takehara), to deal with the loss of both of their wives, who were best friends and died together.

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Sachio would have appreciated Claudius’ approach to faking grief for the death of his brother. Sachio is a famous writer whose books (according to him) are nothing more than shit, and is content living off his fame and notoriety. Motoki should be commended for playing such a duplicitous and two-faced character – Sachio fakes every ounce of sentiment he expresses at his wife’s funeral and claims to be an expert on love and mourning – and Motoki should also be commended for letting little glimpses of Sachio’s humanity and vulnerability shine forth, for, ultimately, you need to sympathize with this shell of a man to gain the most from this film.

When Sachio starts playing father to Yoichi’s two children, the film shows Sachio’s other side – a fun, loving paternal figure who steps in for a man who was used to letting his wife do the parenting. It’s only when Sachio starts getting possessive that his motivations for babysitting become suspect. The young Tamaki Shiratori who plays Yoichi’s daughter is a standout – she’s cute and funny and provides comic relief when it’s needed the most.

The question remains what good are “the trappings and the suits of woe” if they are just an excuse not to deal with the real issues?

Screening: 

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Saturday Sept. 17, 6:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Sunday Sept. 18, 9:15am @ Scotiabank 1

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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