Film Review: The Land Of Hope

Just out for the weekly shop

Just out for the weekly shop

A different pace and turn of events for ILDM as we take a very sombre look at the after effects of a disaster. The Land of Hope focuses on a family that find themselves in an impossible situation and an idea that was based on a real situation – albeit then given its own story. It’s a slow burning, absolute masterclass of acting and turning-the-screw script writing and by the end of the film I was emotionally ripped to shreds. There’s no effects here – its all about the story.

Release Date: 2012

Running Time: 133 mins

The Premise

Following from a Japanese earthquake, a nuclear reactor fails (just like the recent Fukushima reactor) and everyone in a certain radius is evacuated. As that borderline is drawn out through a street it crosses through two families gardens. One must evacuate, the other is left to decide what to do. The story focuses of the family left behind and how they struggle with what’s safe and what isn’t.

The Execution

The earthquake and ensuing evacuation happen from the get go and as we see the main family divide into mum and dad staying in their house stubbornly and the son and pregnant wife moving to the city, things get tricky. Izumi, the wife gets a cabin fever of sorts and insists on staying as safe as possible to keep her unborn child safe – no matter how strange the solution. Some of the more surreal moments of the film come from her side but it’s never unbelievable because the movie takes the time to let her break down into a mental mess gradually. Yoichi the son is then left in the awkward position of keeping Izumi sane, keeping a job down and desperately trying to get his parents to move out with them. It’s the parents however that the film spends the most time with (as the other family seems to drift off and out of the film sadly) and mother Cheiko, already a bit vacant (Altzheimers?) starts to become a handful as she fails to grasp some of the issues at hand. This leaves father Yasuhiko trying to keep her from harm, but knowing that the damage is probably being done as the evacuation is just an arbitrary line in the sand. It all culminates in a lot of drama, crying, pondering looks and gardening – not always in that order! It’s beautifully done though.

The Effects

Whilst there’s little in the way of effects, as the earthquake, reactor and tsunami are all kept off-screen, there’s a section in the later third of the movie where the empty streets of Fukushima and it’s surroundings are used for some really amazing visual scenery. The empty, desolate landscapes and towns are so eerie – it’s fascinating.

The parents are so cute

The parents are so cute

Why It’s Worth Watching

The script and acting are top class. Not one character is weak or looks out-of-place. The cinematography is beautiful and respectful when it comes to the eerie shells of towns past. There is a lot of drama but it always has a pay off and so it doesn’t feel like it’s wrought for no particular reason. The best example of this is that there’s a scene that really had my spine tingling towards the end with the parents – there’s no score – barely any words – but I could not take my eyes of the screen – their acting and ability to keep me on the edge of my seat was palpable. Plus there’s a pregnant woman wandering around the city centre in a radioactive suit to balance out the down sides! The second family whom go through the evacuation process aren’t given as much screen time but when they do, there’s a different vibe to them – more urgent and of loss as they go searching for missing tsunami victims. As they scramble through the wreckage it provides some really difficult yet amazing backdrops for scenes.

Drinking Game

“It’s not safe” “Yes it is” “nooooo” – or words to that effect. It’s the movie’s theme and it makes sure you know about it!

Favourite Character

The childlike Cheiko is adorable as the vacant mother with mental health issues. She nails it.

Weirdest Moment

When the earthquake hits – the family all appear to be in bed together…? I didn’t get why!

Using Japan's real disaster locations that have not yet been cleared up is an inspired if chilling effect

Using Japan’s real disaster locations that have not yet been cleared up is an inspired if chilling effect

Random Trivia

The film’s idea comes from a real life family that the director visited when on the way to prep for a different film concept about the disaster. The line of no entry for Fukushima runs through their garden and although that family seemed to have accepted it and lived their lives on the border, it got director Shion Sono thinking.

Goofy Quote

I don’t think there are any goofy quotes! [I will add one on a re-watch!]

Conclusion

One of the most grown up and hard-hitting disaster movies (or post disaster movie I guess) that you’ll see on this site. This along with Aftershock show that Asia deal with mother nature in a totally different way to Hollywood sometimes and when they do, the results are impeccable.

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