Mr. Uchida, shown at right, has concocted here a simply glorious and grand situation -- one that is also quite smart because it actually allows for legitimate growth and change. And though our filmmaker uses, of course, elements we've seen countless times before -- woman seeking man, switched identities, murder most foul -- he puts them together in ways that make this all seem fresh and new.
Hirosue Ryôko (shown above, right) of Departures is simply lovely. Graceful, restrained, yet sometimes utterly hilarious, she nails this character completely. Likewise, Kagawa Teruyuki (below) as our hit man. To watch him struggle quietly with lack of memory and what this does to character is to exult in a kind of master class in acting.
Sakai Masato (below and at bottom). It's Sakurai who needs to grow the most, and watching Mr. Sakai manage this was, for me, one of the great pleasures of my movie-going year.
Film Movement, where you can stream it now or purchase the DVD (or both). It's also available to purchase via Amazon or to stream via Netflix -- but not until January 31. So stick it in your Netflix queue now.