Dir: Chiang Hsiu-Chiung [Jiang Xiuqiong] | Dragons & Tigers | Taiwan, Japan | 2014 | 118 mins
Sep 29 09:30 pm | The Cinematheque
In The Furthest End Awaits, director Hsiu-Chiung Chiang helms a lovely, quietly lyrical story about female friendship. With the help of affecting performances, as well as the beautiful cinematography of Japan’s western coast, this film leaves an emotional impact.
Misaki (Hiromi Nagasaku) moves to the isolated and remote end of Noto Peninsula (literally, the furthest end west of Tokyo) after her father has been declared dead in absentia after having been missing for eight years. As well as inheriting his debts, Misaki has been left with his ramshackle boat hut (described as “absolutely worthless”) and sets about renovating the dilapidated structure into a charming high-end coffee shop. In the guesthouse a few steps away, a young girl, Arisa (Hiyori Sakurada) and her brother are often left on their own by their young and somewhat immature single mom, Eriko (Nozomi Sasaki) who has to work late nights as a bar hostess. Amidst stops and starts, misunderstandings and moments of clarity, a surprising friendship develops between Misaki and the family.
The movie often lingers on the faces of the actors, who all give strong, often heartbreaking performances. I was particularly impressed by Hiyori Sakurada, in her naturalistic portrayal of Arisa, a young girl who has to grow up too fast due to the frequent absence of her mother and bullying at school. In one scene, Arisa has a conversation with a classmate who she thinks may have instigated the bullying. The minute changes in Sakurada’s expression as the conversation progresses – from fear and worry to relief and understanding, – underscore the larger themes of friendship and empathy mirrored in the relationship between Misaki and Eriko. Hiromi Nagasaku, as well, has a wonderfully expressive and open face, and Nozumi Sasaki has the tricky role of trying to balance Eriko’s immaturity and carelessness with her genuine love for her children.
The Furthest End Awaits starts off slow, but by the end of the film, I was completely drawn in by its poignant illustration of resilience, healing, and friendship.