My Father’s Tracks (僕と彼女とラリーと, Renpei Tsukamoto, 2021)

A struggling Tokyo actor begins to re-appreciate small-town wholesomeness after returning home for the first time in many years on learning of his semi-estranged father’s death in Renpei Tsukamoto’s heartwarming drama My Father’s Tracks (僕と彼女とラリーと, Boku to Kanojo to Rally to). As much a celebration of the idyllic countryside villages around the city of Toyota in Aichi, obviously closely associated with the automobile industry, Tsukamoto’s gentle coming-of-age tale sees its hero find his purpose in returning to his roots while gaining a new perspective on his parents’ relationship and the father he’d always resented who became a local hero but was never around when his family needed him. 

At 29 Taiga (Win Morisaki) is still trying to make his mark as an actor in Tokyo, his dejected manager complaining his trouble is that though he’s quick and clever he’s essentially soulless which is why he’s failing to captivate the audition panel. He repeatedly ignores calls from his semi-estranged father Toshio (Masahiko Nishimura) and then answers one on the urging of a friend only to utter some very unkind words before unceremoniously hanging up. The next time he answers his phone, however, the call is from an old friend and neighbour, Miho (Mai Fukagawa), letting him know that his father has passed away suddenly of a heart attack. Though they had not been on good terms, Taiga cannot help feeling guilty that his final words to his father were so harsh especially as he’d called to invite him to visit the following November. 

Though everyone in the town seems to have held Toshio in high regard, he was a frequent fixture on the local TV channel for which Miho works, both Taiga and his older brother Hiroyuki (Ryuta Sato) who has become a cynical and heartless businessman feel only contempt for him for having selfishly neglected his family while travelling all around the world as a mechanic with a champion rally team not even making it home in time to see their mother before she passed away of a longterm illness. Taiga can’t forgive him for leaving his mother lonely, but later comes to reflect that perhaps he wasn’t best placed to fully understand the relationship between his parents and may have misinterpreted something which as he later puts it only a husband and wife can know. Meanwhile, it seems his father had also been a supportive force in the community having given jobs to those who might not ordinarily find them in a mechanic with a criminal record, an old man past retirement age, and a young woman so shy she is largely unable to speak. Taiga can see how important his father was to these people and worries what will happen to them now whereas his coldhearted brother is deaf to their pleas planning to close the business and have it and the family home bulldozed as soon as possible to settle the estate without undue delay. 

Hurt even more deeply that Taiga, Hiroyuki has become cruel and cynical often running his brother down rolling his eyes that no one makes a living from a “hobby” while insisting this isn’t one of his “namby-pamby” plays. He claims that he needs the money to protect his family, something that he feels his father failed to do in spending all his time on a “hobby” of his own even shutting down his own small son’s curiosity and desire to join in with the other kids’ fun. Even so after repeatedly telling him to “man up” and get a real job, Hiroyuki is less than impressed by Taiga’s desire to take over the family business which he admittedly knows nothing about having acquired a driving license solely for a role, only relenting when threatened by a flamboyant human rights lawyer with the name of a legendary samurai (Riki Takeuchi).  

Nevertheless, marshalling the skills he picked up in Tokyo and working alongside the locals Taiga begins to rediscover the sense of purpose he’d been missing while gaining a new understanding of his father and greater sense of future possibility. Despite complaining that there is “nothing here” in comparison to Tokyo only for Miho to remind him of all the things Tokyo doesn’t have or that are freely given in Toyota but need to be paid for in the city, he quickly settles back in to small town rhythms and begins to accept his father’s legacy finally finding his sense of direction and taking his place in the driving seat of his own life. A heartwarming tale of familial reconnection and the power of community, not to mention a celebration of rural small-town Toyota, My Father’s Tracks insists life is a rally, all about the going there and coming back, walking on blazing a trail and never giving up no matter the sharp corners and unexpected turns a life may take. 


My Father’s Tracks streams in the US until March 27 as part of the 14th season of Asian Pop-up Cinema

Original trailer (English subtitles)

It’s Me, It’s Me (俺俺, Satoshi Miki, 2013)

It's Me It's Me posterSome say it’s good to be your own best friend, but then again perhaps too much of your own company isn’t so good for you after all. The hero of Satoshi Miki’s adaptation of the Tomoyuki Hoshino novel, It’s Me, It’s Me (俺俺, Ore Ore), is about to put this hypothesis to the test as his identity literally splinters, overwriting the source code of strangers and replacing it with its own. How can you save your identity when you aren’t sure who you are? Perhaps getting to know yourself isn’t as straightforward a process as most would believe.

Hitoshi (Kazuya Kamenashi), an aimless 20-something, had dreams of becoming a photographer but they’ve fallen by the wayside while he supports himself with a dead end job on the camera counter in a local electronics superstore. Virtually invisible to all around him and so anonymous the woman in the fast food restaurant almost wouldn’t give him the fries he’d ordered, Hitoshi is irritated when two salaryman-types gossiping about how one of them plans to quit the company to pursue his dreams rudely invade his space. Perhaps for this reason, he finds himself taking off with the irritating stranger’s phone after he carelessly allows it to fall onto Hitoshi’s tray.

Emboldened, Hitoshi decides to use the phone to commit an “Ore Ore” scam – a well known telephone fraud in which a stranger rings an elderly person and shouts “it’s me, it’s me!” in a panic so they won’t twig it’s not really their grandson who is ringing them and claiming to be in some kind of terrible trouble which can only be relieved with cold hard cash. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Hitoshi gets the money wired to his account and then tries to dispose of the phone but it’s already too late. When he gets home, a strange woman (Keiko Takahashi) is in his apartment and she keeps calling him “Daiki”. What’s more, when he tries to go and see his mum (Midoriko Kimura), another guy is there who looks just like him and his mum won’t let him in.

Hitoshi eventually becomes friends with “Daiki” who introduces him to another “Me”, Nao – a cheerful student slacker. Each in their own way slightly disconnected, the trio build up an easy friendship – they do after all have quite a lot in common, and begin jokingly referring to their shared apartment as “Me Island”. Hitoshi, remarking that he’s never felt so carefree among others, begins to see the upsides of his strange new situation which obviously include the ability to be in two places at once, but too much of himself eventually begins to grate when Nao begins tracking down and bringing home all the other Mes he can find with the intention of launching a Me Empire.

A member of a lost generation, Hitoshi is a perfect example of modern urban malaise. Though he once had dreams, they’ve been steadily killed off by an oppressive society leaving him alone and adrift, unable to connect with others as the light slowly dies in his eyes. Perhaps, however, there is the odd flicker of resistance in his intense resentment towards those who have defiantly not given up – the chatty salaryman talking about his individualist dreams and later his work colleague who has been secretly taking accountancy classes in an effort to escape casual employment hell for a steady, if dull, regular job.

Hitoshi has always regarded relationships as “troublesome” but begins to feel differently through bonding with himself. As Daiki puts it, accepting others means that you’ll be accepted – something Hitoshi unconsciously longs for but is too insecure to believe is possible. His actualisation receives another stimulus when he meets the beautiful and mysterious Sayaka (Yuki Uchida) who again encourages him to accept the one who accepts you and is the only other person who seems to be able to see the “real” him as distinct from all the other Mes. Yet Hitoshi struggles – he can accept parts of but not all of himself, eventually leading to a disastrous turn of events in which the parts of himself he does not like begin being “deleted” as one Me decides to make war on all the others.

Only by ridding his psyche of imperfections can Hitoshi reformat his personality and once again resume full autonomy as the one and only Me. Yet can we be so sure final Hitoshi is the “true” Hitoshi? Who can say – only Hitoshi himself can know the answer to that (or not), the rest of us will just have to accept him as he is in the hope that he will also be able to accept us so that we can in turn accept ourselves.


Original trailer (no subtitles)