Dir: Yoshida Daihachi | Gateway | Dragons & Tigers | Japan | 2017 | 127 mins
Loosely based on Yukio Mashima’s novel of the same name, Daihachi Yoshida’s A Beautiful Star contemplates what it means to be human. In this star-studded film, Lily Franky plays Juichiro Osugi, a weatherman and husband of Iyoko (Tomoko Nakajima). They have a son, Kazuo (Kazuya Kamenashi, Vancouver Asahi), a bike messenger, and a daughter, Akiko (Ai Hashimoto), a beautiful college student.
When a series of strange events occur, Juichiro, Kazuo and Akiko each claim they are extraterrestrial beings, hailing from Mars, Mercury and Venus. What starts out as a believable story about an eccentric family quickly spirals into something much more absurd and ridiculous. The only seemingly “normal” one in the family is Iyoko, who manages to get roped into a hilarious pyramid scheme involving “beauty water.”
While there is plenty to discuss regarding the symbolism of their planetary associations, my favourite storyline by far is Iyoko’s. Her naivety and gullibility show not only the extent of her human weaknesses but the strength and malice behind those who deceived her in the first place. After all, she is the only human being in her family.
Those who have read Mashima’s novel will undoubtedly notice elements of his writing style in the film: There are still themes surrounding death, politics and sexuality. One major difference is the setting of the story. Mashima’s A Beautiful Star takes place in the Cold War era against the backdrop of nuclear warheads and impending doom. Yoshida cleverly steers clear of this discussion, instead choosing to focus on an issue of modern day importance – global warming.
Truthfully, the unravelling of the film’s story makes little sense otherwise. We don’t quite understand everyone’s intentions, and we certainly never get answers to our questions. Maybe that’s the point. When Juichiro’s illness is finally revealed, Kazuo’s political ambitions finally thwarted and Akiko’s rape finally exposed, we realize the extent of their humanness and how far they’ve distanced themselves from what being human truly means.
Though A Beautiful Star is full of lighthearted fun, Yoshida grounds us: Whether our characters are alien or not matters less and less; the issues that plague the Earth are universal.