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Nichole Morales
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Hirokazu Koreeda’s film Maborosi was released in Japan in 1995 and I chose it because of its exceptional ratings online. The film is based on a novel by Teru Miyamoto and stars Makiko Esumi, Takashi Naito, and Tadanobu Asano. It’s essentially about a young woman’s inner struggle with loneliness and grief. However, the director rarely shows this internal anguish explicitly, favoring cinematic choices like darkness, snow, and distance between characters. To me, this points to a uniqueness in Japanese culture, the quiet carrying of a deep burden and an author’s attempt to explain why some may mysteriously choose to die by suicide.

In the beginning of the film, Yukima, the protagonist in Maborosi, is dumbfounded by the lingering, bewildering pain of mysteriously losing her grandmother when her young husband dies by suicide for no apparent reason. She withdraws from her infant son into a shell of herself. Winter is long. Her daily tasks are dark. She is distant from other characters. But in time, she’s matched with a kind man who has also lost the one he loved. They marry and he attempts to close the distance between them. Nevertheless, Yukima is still haunted by the question of why the people she loved choose to retreat from existence. In the end, she too sees the “maborosi,” a trick of the light, and leaves. 

I recommend this film to those wanting to understand the unspoken parts of culture, one’s inner world and dealings with grief and loneliness. I assume that the way Yukima silently carries her grief is a Japanese way. Unlike Western people, Yukima appeared stoic and strong, not saddened. Her new husband acknowledged that she cried once, but this wasn’t visible to viewers. Her inner world was shown by lingering dreams, snow, darkness, distances, and absences in the film.