Rating: Not Rated
Jô Odagiri as Yuji Nimura
Tadanobu Asano as Mamoru Arita
Tatsuya Fuji as Shin-ichiro Arita
Takashi Sasano as Mr. Fujiwara
Marumi Shiraishi as Mrs. Fujiwara
Hanawa .as Ken Takagi
Yoshiyuki Morishita as Mori
Sayuri Oyamada as Miho Nimura
Ryo .as Lawyer
Tetsu Sawaki as Kei
“Ambivalent Future” – A 75-Minute behind-the-scenes look at th making of the film
Japanese with English Subtitles
Running Time: 93 Minutes
This film was originally released in 2002 in Japan. The following is from the DVD cover:
“Acclaimed Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa departs from the horror genre for this mystical story of urban ennui. Friends Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) and Yuji (Joe Odagiri) are aimless young men stuck in dead-end jobs in a dreary factory in Tokyo. Mamoru, the more antisocial of the two, is obsessed with his pet project of acclimating a poisonous jellyfish to fresh water by gradually changing the water in its tank. One night, he inexplicably murders his boss’ family and is sentenced to death. Yuji, left to continue the jellyfish experiment, befriends Mamoru’s estranged father, and the two form a bond that helps him overcome his emotional troubles. But his attachment to the jellyfish is even stronger, and problems arise when he accidentally releases the poisonous creature into the canals of Tokyo.”
Bright Future is not rated.
Looking at the cover of this DVD I was expecting it to be a sci-fi film or something. After all, it talked about a jellyfish experiment run amok, the director departing from the horror drama, and other such stuff. But it didn’t take me long to realize this wasn’t that kind of movie. It’s more of a character drama about the angst and lack of direction in Japanese youth. Though switching my expectations didn’t turn me off, the overall story of the movie did.
First of all, I couldn’t identify or sympathize with the characters. One day they just randomly decide to kill their boss for no particular reason other than the fact that they can’t seem to sort their lives out. The boss is shown to be a nice guy. He offers them better pay, invites them to his house, and is generally sociable. They repay him by murdering him and his wife. That immediately turned me off to the characters. As the movie later tries to make Mamoru and Yuji out to be sympathetic or misunderstood, I didn’t buy it at all.
Bright Future also takes a few bizarre turns along the way. A glowing jellyfish is repeatedly shown. I suppose it represents the spirit of Mamoru, the future, or some other unexplained abstract concept. The jellyfish is shown with awe and respect, yet it is also shown killing people and attacking kids. In the end it’s nothing more than an unnecessary fantasy element. The ending of the film is also weird. The camera leaves our main characters and follows a group of street punks as they walk down the street attempting to act cool. There’s no real resolution to the story. (It doesn’t help that this is the geekiest looking gang shown on film since Revenge of the Nerds.)
So what does Bright Future have to offer? It’s an interesting snapshot of modern Japanese youth. Their environment, workplace, social structure, and family structure are all shown. It’s an fascinating taste of another culture. The acting is also pretty good. Tatsuya Fuji is excellent as a father trying to reconnect with his sons. His desperation and emotion were well portrayed. Joe Odagiri is also good as Yuji, the hapless friend of Mamoru. His lack of direction and sense of hopelessness really comes across despite the English subtitles. Finally, the cinematography is also pretty good. They make Japan look as interesting and as exotic as it really is.
Who should see Bright Future? Fans of independent films are probably going to enjoy it more than mainstream audiences. It’s way too abstract and off the wall to have widespread appeal. But if you’re into Japan or if you like character dramas, then you’ll probably want to check out Bright Future.
The main bonus feature on this DVD is “Ambivalent Future”, a 75 minute documentary on the making of the movie. (It’s almost as long as the film itself.) As you would expect, they take an extensive look at how Bright Future was made. There are interviews with the cast and crew, tons of behind the scenes footage, and more. They cover most aspects of the making of Bright Future. It’s a bit longer than necessary, but it’s a very detailed look at how Japanese movies get made.
The Bottom Line:
Bright Future is an interesting look at the lack of direction in Japanese youth, but the fact that there are no identifiable characters makes it hard to get into. This one is more for the independent film crowd.