MABOROSI， which means “phantasmic light” is Japanese cinema gradualist Hirokazu Koreedas feature debut， a minutely restrained drama charting the aftermath of abrupt bereavement.
At first glance （and with some acquired taste） Ozu’s influences writ large in the picture， from inanimate pillow shots， natural light （or no ancillary light at least） setting， to its medium-shot， static camera angle， perpetually at a remove， but often lingering longer than usual， with the story’s dramatis personae， and Koreeda goes ever further， defiantly ghettoizes our protagonistYumiko （former volleyball playerMakiko Esumi’s screen debut） intaciturnity， while the narrative languidly ambles around a nearly ritualistic， quotidian quietness.In the preamble， Yumiko’s grandmother decides to die in her hometown and leaves by foot， never being found again， Yumiko is guilt-ridden because she didnt stop her， and it actualizes as a recurring dream following her into adulthood， contentedly married with Ikuo （Asano） they have just welcomed an infant boy into this world， supposedly it should be a new chapter in their placid but convivial life， yet as augured by an earlier scene where Yumiko meets Ikuo for the first time on the night of her grandmother going missing， Yumiko comes for in another unanticipated bereavement when Ikuo commits an apparently unpremeditated suicide， leaving no explanation behind， which vehemently shatters Yumiko to the core， yet pertaining to Oriental philosophy and decorum， grief and perplexity are seething all too quietly under her outwardly collected mien. Koreeda circumspectly rams home that it is an inward process， time might heal her， or not.A few years later， when the bicycle Ikuo stole and rode is covered with verdigris， it is the time when Yumiko marries into a new family with her son Yuichi （Kashiyama） transferring themselves to a sleepy coastal village， Yumiko’s new hubby Tamio （Naitô） a widower with a young daughter （there is kindred spirit one can bank on） welcomes them to the household and domestic bliss restarts in a routine orbit with formality/intimacy （the latter is contingent on seasons） and bucolic/seaside idyll， all in anunperturbed pace under the adornment of Taiwanese composer Chen Ming-chang’s lyrical， dirgeful incidental music. Only a return visit to attend her brother’s wedding insidiously compounds Yumiko’s discomfiture， she cannot find a closure to let go of the past.In view of that Japanese is a people who has a perverse propensity of mythologizing suicide， Koreeda’s answer to Yumiko’s ingrown quest （culminating in a stunning sequence when she follows a cortège near the mudflat， and betrayed by the film’s title） predictably partakes of a numinous slant through Tamio’s mouth， and， to a certain degree， it leans to an arbitrary placebo aiming for a sigh of resignation in face of the unknown， one wonder whether Yumiko can come to terms with it， as cool as a cucumber she is， Esumi’s performance often belies a trace of self-imposed effort. Alas， to all intents and purposes， Koreeda’s maiden work is a laconic but poetic essay， a tasteful if none-too-absorbing artifact， but mostly confidently， a resolute harbinger of a promise that the best is yet to come， which in retrospect， is indubitable.