BASHING (Masahiro Kobayashi, 2005)

Japan, an inwardly drawn nation, apparently had no organization of aid workers volunteering in Iraq; therefore, Yuko Takai went there on her own. But she was kidnapped by Islamic extremists, who eventually let her go. The publicity drawn to her as an individual brought disgrace to Japan and Yuko was treated as a pariah. Opening script explains that such people, if they returned to Japan, were shunned; but Yuko is derided, barraged with abusive anonymous phone calls, assaulted by strangers. After six months, all this harassment continues unabated. She is fired from her job as a hotel chambermaid for changing the “atmosphere” at work. After thirty years, her father is pressured to resign from his factory job, which he does after getting down on hands and knees and begging his manager to keep his job. Yuko’s stepmother (Nene Otsuka, excellent) asks her husband why he didn’t present the issue to his union instead. But Mr. Takai, like his daughter, felt compelled to go it alone. Yuko’s boyfriend dumps her for her “selfishness”; her father takes to drink and drowns himself. Using her portion of her father’s insurance money, Yuko returns to Iraq, the one place she has felt needed. If she stays in Japan, she tells her stepmother, she will become “cold” like her countrymen.
     Yuko’s desire to create “links” with elements of the outside world is admirable, but surely she is being disingenuous, and self-pitying in the extreme, when she asks: “What’s wrong with everyone? Is what I did so wrong?”
     Nothing we see happen justifies Yuko’s sullen, surly disposition; we recall the opening statement that the film is “loosely” based on actual events. Masahiro Kobayashi’s Bashing seems exaggerated—although the suicide is handled tactfully and eloquently.
     Yuko’s perpetually gray underpopulated coastal town: a bummer.

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