Is there an ideal way of coming to terms with the end of a marriage, or is better to take it as it comes? The heroine of Shinji Imaoka’s relationship drama Far Away, Further Away (遠くへ,もっと遠くへ, Tooku e, Motto Tooku e) thinks she has it all figured out and has started taking practical steps towards an efficient separation only to have the rug pulled from under her never having considered that her husband may also be unsatisfied and her attempts to mitigate his hurt feelings therefore less than relevant. Imaoka began his career in pink film and is probably best known outside of Japan for the erotic musical fantasy Underwater Love but has in recent years taken to more contemplative drama such as 2019 study in grief Reiko and the Dolphin, here continuing a key theme in the exploration of the difficulties in relationships between men and women. 

The main reason Sayoko (Manami Shindo) wants to leave her husband is that they’ve simply grown apart. Smiling gently at a sweet older couple looking at a two-seater sofa in the furniture store where she works, she reflects on their words that a marriage is weaker without common interests realising that she and Goro have none. A fishing obsessive, Goro usually retreats to his room after dinner to update his blog and fondle fishing equipment while her suggestion that she join him on his next trip is met with less than enthusiasm. Meanwhile, though she likes her job at the furniture store she’s beginning to feel as if she’s stuck in a rut and no closer to achieving her dreams of becoming an interior co-ordinator disappointed to discover a quote she’d written for younger couple who seemed happy enough in the shop screwed up in the park. One might assume they’ve obviously had an argument about it on the way home which probably isn’t anything to do with Sayoko but still she begins to wonder what the point is leading to Goro to advise her to quit her job laying bare the true source of his dissatisfaction in the marriage in that he was looking for a woman prepared to become a conventional housewife which in turn might explain why he’s not interested in the shared interests approach to marriage Sayoko suggests but prefers to maintain a separate lives model in which she takes care of the domestic while he has his work and individual hobbies to blow off steam. 

So distant from each other have they become that Sayoko hasn’t really realised she’s not the only one who wanted to end the marriage nor has he seemingly realised she’s in the process of leaving him. Her plan for a measured exit is nixed by her husband’s request for a divorce but through her quest to find a new apartment she gradually draws closer to lovelorn estate agent Yohei (Kaito Yoshimura) who is particularly interested in her story as his own wife, Mitsuko, left him seemingly out of the blue some years ago and he’s never really come to terms with it a part of him still assuming she’ll eventually come back. In a bid to find some closure Sayoko suggests they take off together to look for her so he can start to move on, heading north on a Hokkaido-bound road trip that takes her back to her own hometown where she reflects on her parents’ marriage after discovering her mother’s second life as a widow in which she has begun to fulfil herself as a singer no longer required to fulfil the role of the traditional housewife which Sayoko had rejected. 

Dealing with their respective baggage the pair grow closer and begin to move on together, further and further away until they reach the coast looking for a ferry to take them on to Sakhalin. The memories of old lovers retreat further and further away too, increasingly blurred and distant eclipsed by new ones even if a sense of loneliness remains. Contrasting the verdant natural vistas of rural Hokkaido with the greyness of Tokyo city life Imaoka adds a sense of childlike wonder as his heroine’s tendency to dance while repeating the same phrase with increasing intensity begins to rub off on her dejected love interest, making the case for striking out for a far off happiness rather than simply resigning oneself to an unsatisfying present. 

Far Away, Further Away screened as part of Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022

Original trailer (no subtitles)

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