Fukada masterfully teases out these tensions slowly. First, with glances, sometimes shared, sometimes just rendered. Then through casual dialogue laced with subtle, hurtful barbs. And finally, through grand gestures and monologues that reveal unexpressed feelings, misplaced loyalties, unmasked selfishness, and long overdue self-realizations.
While all of this tension was brewing before the surprise party, which also serves as a celebration for the six-year-old Keita’s recent Othello championship, a mishap involving Jirō’s jilted ex Yamazaki (Hirona Yamazaki), an unkind implication that Takeo is “used goods” from Makoto, and, worst of all, a tragic accident involving Keita, brings everything swelling to the surface. The sudden reappearance of Taeko’s first husband, the half-Korean transient Park (Atom Sunada, wonderfully maddening), who abandoned them years earlier, makes matters even worse.
Deaf and houseless, with a stray cat in tow, Park roars back into Taeko’s life when she is most emotionally volatile. That the two never seemed to have had any real closure remains an open wound for Taeko (and, unbeknownst to her, Jirō’). It is now flayed and exposed for all to see.
Park disrupts a wake held in a drab, colorless building, his ragged, mustard yellow t-shirt contrasting with everyone’s solemn black. He slaps Taeko in the face; violence erupts as he’s ushered out, and she crashes to the floor, sobbing. This burst of anger—and their shared, guttural wailing—comes as much of a shock as the accident that led to the wake. There is an intimacy the two share through their biological connection to Keita that draws them together and that Jirō cannot fully comprehend.
Acting as his translator, Taeko then begins helping Park receive social aid, at first reluctantly, then later at the encouragement of Jirō. As the two exes spend more time together, Jirō also finds himself drawn back to his ex, Yamazaki, who he similarly abandoned in an emotional limbo when he got with Taeko. All four seem stuck, frozen by their past actions and the people they used to be, unable to fully move on.
In exploring the intricacies of these uneasy relationships, Fukada utilizes the melodramatic monologue in all its glory. While there can be an artificiality to monologues, the raw and complex contradictions each character contends with are rooted in emotions that never once ring false, and the actors bring an authenticity that transcends treacle.