|Toshio, Yasaka, Akié, and Hotaru dining together|
Harmonium, which won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes in 2016, opens today in New York. It is a powerful drama about a Japanese family, with strong elements of the mystery-thriller genre.
Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) has a metal workshop in the garage attached to the home where he lives with his wife Akié (Mariko Tsutsui) and their adorable daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa), who plays the harmonium. One day, Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a friend of Toshio's, unexpectedly shows up. He has just been released after serving a substantial prison sentence.
Toshio hires him to work as an assistant for what is to be a relatively short period of time. Clearly there is some mystery not only about why Yasaka was imprisoned, but also just what history he and Toshio share. The upshot -- not to give anything away, which would be a crime in its own right -- is that strange and weird elements creep into the relationships within the family and between them and Yasaka.
When I finished watching the film, I let out a soft, quiet "whoa" because I was so stunned. Harmonium is a masterful tale that is sure to grip you and not let go, even after it is over.
AsianCineFest Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended
On May 22, 2016, after Harmonium had won its prize at Cannes, Film Comment ran Nicholas Rapold's interview with director Kôji Fukada. It's available to be read online here.