Into the White Night 白夜行
2010, colour, 1.85:1, 149 mins
Directed by Fukagawa Yoshihiro (深川栄洋)
By Derek Elley
Thu, 27 January 2011, 12:50 PM (HKT)
Intriguing, long-limbed murder mystery pretty much holds attention thanks to strongly drawn characters. Festivals, plus niche TV outside Asia.
Japan, 1980. The body of pawnbroker Kirihara Yosuke (Saito Ayumu) is found by some schoolboys in an abandoned building, his wallet and lighter missing. Kirihara had a 10-year-old son, Ryoji (Imai Yuki), and his wife Yaeko (Toda Keiko) was believed to have been having an affaire with employee Matsuura Isamu (Tanaka Tetsushi). Detective Sasagaki Junjo (Funakoshi Eichiro), of Ohe Police Department, is assigned to the task force investigating the murder and suspicion evetually points to Fumiyo Nishimoto (Yamashita Yorie), a single mother with an eight-year-old daughter, Yukiho (Fukimoto Shiori); Kirihara used to visit their home regularly and is suspected of being Fumiyo's lover. Subsequently, however, her real lover, Terasaki Tadao, is found dead in a car crash with Kirihara's lighter on him, and Fumiyo apparently gasses herself to death at her home. After 71 days, with no conclusive evidence, the case is wound up by local police chiefs, though Sasagaki still has his doubts. 1986: Yukiho (Horikita Maki), since adopted by Karasawa Reiko (Nakamura Kumi), is now a serene and beautiful teenager at Seika High School for Girls, untroubled by schoolmates' gossip that her mother was a murderer. She takes under her wing bullied plain jane Kawashima Eriko (Midori Yurie), who becomes her devoted friend; later, the pair find one of Eriko's tormentors, Fujimura Miyako, gagged and sexually abused in a warehouse. 1988: Ryoji forms a relationship with Kurihara Noriko (Awata Urara), a graduate chemist. Yukiho and Eriko attend college together, where Eriko is courted by Shinozuka Kazunari (Kyo Nobuo), playboy son of a wealthy fashion-store executive. However, one day Eriko abruptly breaks off the relationship and is found raped and murdered. Yukiho takes up with Kazunari. Later, Sasagaki, who still hasn't given up on the case, learns that Matsuura's remains have been uncovered by a landslide. He himself is then almost poisoned in a cafe. Subsequently, Noriko is poisoned by the same means. 1998: Yukiho is now married to Kazunari and has become a capable businesswoman under his father's tutelage. Sasagaki officially retires from the police force, but by now he has almost pieced together the truth of the past two decades.
Already adapted into a 2005 stage play, a highly regarded TBS TV drama (2006, 11 episodes) and a slick, pumped-up South Korean movie (PARK Shin-woo 박신우's White Night 백야행 (2009), with SON Ye-jin 손예진 | 孫兿珍, GO Su 고수 and HAN Seok-gyu 한석규 | 韓石圭), top mystery novelist HIGASHINO Keigo 東野圭吾's Into the White Night 白夜行 (2010) rates as one of the most over-exposed works of the past decade. (Outside Japan, Higashino is best known for his novel The Secret 秘密, translated into English as Naoko and filmed twice, in Japan and the West.) The challenge for this latest version — at least for Japanese audiences who already know the plot backwards — was to come up with something fresh, and writer-director FUKAGAWA Yoshihiro 深川栄洋 (Peeping Tom 真木栗ノ穴 (2007), Dear My Love ６０歳のラブレター (2009)) pretty much succeeds, with a strong cast and a distinct directorial approach.
Though there are times when, even at two-and-a-half hours, the movie has difficulty doing justice to the novel's large cast of characters and complex plot which sprawls across almost 20 years, Fukagawa's decision to construct the film in dramatic blocks rather than a continuously flowing storyline pays dividends in creating the character intensity the story needs to succeed. Even though the movie is more a whydunit than a whodunit, for first-time viewers unfamiliar with the novel it still grips as a pure mystery, with this adaptation playing down the romantic aspects of the story in favour of a drama about deadly, calculated ambition. The finale may strike some western audiences as being "too Asian", but the central relationship is utterly a part of Asian fiction and the plot only works on that level.
As the dogged detective who just won't give up on his gut instincts, FUNAKOSHI Eiichiro 船越栄一郎 brings a quiet determination to the role that's just right, though attempts to patch in some personal background to his character are too flimsy and in the second half he's more an onlooker to the drama rather than a central character. Dominating the film after the introductory first half-hour is 22-year-old actress HORIKITA Maki 堀北真希, a former TV drama teen star who showed her acting spurs in the psychodrama Tokyo Boy 東京少年 (2007). As Yukiho, who conceals more behind her ice-cool beauty than she'll ever admit, Horikita is magnetic, and overshadows KORA Kengo 高良健吾 (Norwegian Wood ノルウェイの森 (2010), Box! ボックス！ (2010)) as her male co-lead Ryoji. This has the effect of weakening what should be the drama's central relationship, though there are plenty of meaty performances among the large cast of characters to maintain interest as the plot unwinds. Among the younger players, MIDORI Yurie 緑友利恵 is touchingly fey as Yukiho's bosom school friend Eriko, while teen actress KOIKE Ayame 小池彩夢, who played with Horikita in the 2007 hit Always: Sunset on Third Street 2 ＡＬＷＡＹＳ続・三丁目の夕日 (2007), asserts a strong presence in the final stages as her sister-in-law Mika. Among the veterans, NAKAMURA Kumi 中村久美 (as Yukiho's adoptive mother) and TODA Keiko 戸田恵子 (as Ryoji's mother) provide solid support.
Technical packaging is smooth, with a wide range of colour pallettes for different moods in ISHII Hirokazu 石井浩一's photography, and atmospheric scoring by HIRAI Mamiko 平井真美子 that finally unleashes its emotion in the finale. Apart from a dramatic dip around the two-hour mark, the film sustains its lengthy running time.
ContactSales: Gaga Corporation, Tokyo (email@example.com)
Premiere: Tokyo International Film Festival (Special Screenings), 25 Oct 2010. Theatrical release: Japan, 29 Jan 2011.
Presented by Byakuyako Film Partners (Gaga, Horipro, Wowow Films, ImageField) (JP). Produced by Horipro (JP). Executive producers: Wazaki Nobuya, Tom Yoda, Ishigaki Hiroyuki.
Script: Fukagawa Yoshihiro, Irie Shingo, Yamamoto Akari. Serial: Higashino Keigo (magazine serial: 1977-79; novel: 1999). Photography: Ishii Hirokazu. Editing: Bando Naoya. Music: Hirai Mamiko. Theme song: Tamaki. Art direction: Iwaki Namiko, Matsuda Mitsune. Sound: Hayashi Daisuke. Visual effects: Nishio Kentaro.
Cast: Horikita Maki (Nishimoto Yukiho/Karasawa Yukiho), Kora Kengo (Kirihara Ryoji), Funakoshi Eiichiro (Detective Sasagaki Junjo), Toda Keiko (Kirihara Yaeko, Ryoji's mother), Tanaka Tetsushi (Matsuura Isamu), Kyo Nobuo (Shinozuka Kazunari, Yukiho's husband), Midori Yurie (Kawashima Eriko, Yukiho's schoolfriend), Nakamura Kumi (Karasawa Reiko, Yukiho's adoptive mother), Awata Urara (Kurihara Noriko, Ryoji's girlfriend), Imai Yuki (Ryoji, aged 10), Fukumoto Shiori (Yukiho, aged 10), Yamashita Yorie (Nishimoto Fumiyo, Yukiho's mother), Saito Ayumu (Kirihara Yosuke, Ryoji's father), Koike Ayame (Shinozuka Mika, Kazunari's younger sister).