by Ebisuno92, September 29, 2018

Do you know what time is it? Of course, it’s weekend o’clock! As Fall is mercilessly creeping into our backyards with cold air and falling leaves, the best thing to do is stay at home and watch some movies. So make yourself some hot beverage and get a blanket as I’m going to present my three movie recommendations for this weekend. These should make you laugh, provide some food for thought, and deliver some uplifting moments.

Survival Family

Country: Japan

Year: 2017

Synopsis: Meet the Suzuki family. There is nothing out of the ordinary about them. Head of the family, Yoshiyuki (Fumiyo Kohinata), is an average salaryman in a corporate company. His wife, Mitsue (Eri Fukatsu), does everyday motherly chores. Their children, Kenji (Yuki Izumisawa) and Yui (Wakana Aoi), are typical modern teenagers, glued to their phones and computers. All of a sudden, a power outage sweeps across Tokyo. Everyone thinks that it is only a temporary inconvenience, but the power does not come back. As days go by, Tokyo becomes a dangerous to place live in due to shortening food and water supplies. Hoping to be able to survive in the countryside, the family sets out on a journey across Japan that will change their lives.

Survival Family is the latest movie from Shinobu Yaguchi. The progression of heroes appears to be the prevalent theme in his movies, and this film is no exception. An ordinary Japanese family is taken out of the metropolitan safe zone and put to the trials and tribulations in true Bear Grylls’ style.

The already mentioned power outage scenario is the driving vehicle of the story. However, the movie is not a horror-thriller like The Road (2009) but rather a comedy-drama. It tries to stay objective in its examination of a possible apocalypse, but at the same time sways into an optimistic feel, typical of Yaguchi’s flicks, as the Suzukis encounter a variety of positive characters along their way.

Having seen Fumiyo Kohinata and Eri Fukatsu in countless dramas and films, I can safely say that they convincingly played a father and a mother who undergo an emotional change. Also, the children were well cast in their roles. The movie is also filled with many small parts done by well-known Japanese actors. In addition, the picturesque locations featured in the film feel very much like a separate character.


Country: South Korea

Year: 2016

Synopsis: Lee Jeong Soo (Ha Jung Woo) is a successful car seller who is on his way to work. Getting gas at the station takes a little bit longer, an elderly employee gives him two bottles of water; finally, Lee Jeong Soo resumes his journey. He drives into a newly built tunnel leading from Seoul to Hada. Suddenly, the whole construction collapses right in front of his eyes as he is still driving through it. From this point on, the rescue team steps in headed by Captain Dae Kyeong (Oh Dal Soo) in order to save Lee Jeong Soo, who is trapped inside his car under the massive pile of dirt and concrete.

After seeing the title, I was prepared for a rehashed remake of a not-so-memorable disaster flick with Sylvester Stallone. Thankfully, as soon as the film started, I realized my mistake. As expected from Korean productions, even a disaster film like Tunnel is not all about epic action and larger-than-life heroes. In fact, it is about careful insight into human drama and objective examination of an extreme situation. Yet, don’t feel disappointed! There is action and it neatly blends together with the story.

In terms of performances, all of the three main stars give their best. Ha Jung Woo authentically portrays the survivor in a trap, whereas Bae Doo Na complements his performance as a wife desperate to have her husband back. Oh Dal Soo is a joy to watch as he fights politicians, journalists, and administrative workers in order to get things done. Also, the music score by Mok Young Jin and Vitek Kral deserves an honorable mention as it conveys some great action cues as well as soothing themes.

Highly recommended to anyone who is into one man’s survival drama. Although the film lasts slightly over two hours, it does not feel that much. A very well executed story that makes Tunnel a fine entry in the disaster genre.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Country: China

Year: 2005

Synopsis: Gouichi Takata (Ken Takakura) is an aged fisherman living in seclusion until one day his daughter-in-law (Shinobu Terajima) tells him that his grown-up son, Kenichi (Kiichi Nakai), is in hospital. Mr Takata travels to Tokyo, but Kenichi refuses to see him. Resigned Takata views a VHS tape from the son’s visit to China and, profoundly influenced by the recording, decides to go there on his own and record a folk opera called “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” performed by local singer Li Jiamin. However, when arriving on foreign land, Mr Takata not only has to overcome language barriers and unexpected obstacles in order to see Li, but he also has to take the thousand-mile journey himself in order to reconcile with his ailing son.

Zhang Yimou's film presents the viewers with a complicated relationship between father and son. Thankfully, the movie does not have a mystery of any sort, but we are made to wonder throughout the picture what has happened between the two men that distanced them from each other.

Mr Takata finds himself completely hopeless in a foreign country. Therefore, he has to rely on the assistance of Jiang Weng, the translator, and Qiu Lin, the tour guide. The partners of his journey constitute the paragons of a “normal” and “emotional” person that Mr Takata struggles so hard to become. During his ride, Takata encounters many peculiar individuals, together with their local traditions. In addition, he travels through the secluded and beautiful locations of one of the vastest countries in the world.

Basically, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles is a transformation-through-journey movie with a brilliant performance from the late Ken Takakura (penultimate picture before his passing), tear-jerking story, and wonderful locations in which the tourist rate must have definitely increased after the premiere of this film.

So these are my recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy them. If you do watch any of them, please let me know your thoughts in the comments!