Contemporary light drama
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 130 mins
Directed by Nishikori Yoshinari (錦織良成)
By Derek Elley
Thu, 08 July 2010, 09:55 AM (HKT)
Story of a company executive who chucks his job to realise a childhood dream makes pleasant but unchallenging viewing. Niche TV, and Japanese film weeks.
Tokyo, the present day. Promised a seat on the board, management planning chief Tsutsui Hajime (Nakai Kiichi), 49, agrees to implement a drastic plan at Keiyo Electric to save the company from bankruptcy. His major task is to close down a manufacturing plant run by his old friend Kawahira (Endo Kenichi). Hearing that his mother, Kinyo (Naraoka Tomoko), has had a heart attack, Tsutsui goes with his university student daughter Sachi (Motokariya Yuika) to visit her in hospital in his hometown Izumo, west of Tokyo, where he's later joined by his wife Yukiko (Takashima Reiko). When Tsutsui wants to return to Tokyo soon after, Sachi nags her father about being too devoted to his work, he finally decides, after hearing Kawahira has died in a car accident, to quit his job and realise a boyhood dream of being a train driver on the Ichibata Electric Railway. Despite his age, he is accepted, and along with a younger colleague, Miyata Daigo (Miura Takahiro), whose ambition was always to be a baseball player, discovers a new life.
A movie about realising your dream before it's too late, Railways ＲＡＩＬＷＡＹＳ (2010) is also a love letter to the simple life and the romantic attraction of old rural train services. But Railways is no Poppoya: Railroad Man 鉄道員 (1999): NISHIKORI Yoshinari 錦織良成 directs with an utter simplicity, free of any heart-tugging or rose-tinted spectacles, as if he's been doing it his whole life, instead of making genre fare like Bugs ＢＵＧＳ (1996) and Un-Nan: The Legend of the Eight-Headed Serpent うん、何？ (2008). The flat landscape of Shimane prefecture, with the trains rattling along by the sea, is naturally caught by YANAGIDA Hiroo 柳田裕男's clean widescreen photography, and hardly anything — apart from minor dramas involving the protagonist's dying mother — is allowed to disturb the film's pleasant, sunny tenor.
Exactly the same age as the character he plays, veteran NAKAI Kiichi 中井貴一 turns in an effortless performance as the workaholic father who decides it's time to indulge himself a little, and he's well supported by MOTOKARIYA Yuika 本仮屋ユイカ (Swing Girls スウィングガールズ (2004)) as his initially grouchy daughter and a host of older character actors. As the wife trying to build a business of her own, TAKASHIMA Reiko 高島礼子 is stuck in a role that's weakly written, and during the first half the script's habit of spelling everything out for the audience becomes annoying. However, as the real story gets going at the 50-minute mark the film runs along steady rails of its own, despite being a tad lengthy at over two hours. The absence of music until the very last minutes also helps Railways to avoid being the rote Japanese heart-warmer it could so easily have become.
ContactSales: Shochiku, Tokyo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Cannes Film Festival (Market), 13 May 2010. Theatrical release: Japan, 29 May 2010.
Presented by Shochiku (JP). Produced by Robot Communications (JP). Executive producers: Abe Shuji, Sekine Shingo. Producers: Ishida Kazuyoshi, Koide Masaki, Ueda Yuji.
Script: Nishikori Yoshinari, Brazily An Yamada, Kobayashi Hirotoshi. Photography: Yanagida Hirooo. Editing: Kusakabe Mototaka. Music: Yoshimura Ryuta. Art direction: Isomi Toshihiro. Sound: Komiya Hajime.
Cast: Nakai Kiichi (Tsutsui Hajime), Motokariya Yuika (Sachi, his daughter), Takashima Reiko (Yukiko, his wife), Naraoka Tomoko (Kinyo, his mother), Miura Takahiro (Miyata Daigo), Hashizume Isao (Ichibata Railway head), Sano Shiro (His deputy), Miyazaki Yoshiko (Nurse Moriyama), Endo Kenichi (Kawahira), Nakamoto Ken (Nishida), Komoto Masahiro (Chief instructor Fukushima), Watanabe Tetsu (Veteran train mechanic Takahashi), Ogata Kanta (Driver trainer Yabuuchi), Ishii Masanori (Railway controller Takubo), Shofukutei Matsunosuke (Toyo, the gardener).