Archive for August 28th, 2012

Riding The Metro (2006)

Shinji Hasebe is a salesman for a small underwear company who travels on the Tokyo metro every day to work. On stepping off the train one day he receives a call from his brother to say his father is seriously ill and dying in hospital. Shinji’s father is a very successful businessman and in the same line of business as Shinji but has gotten involved in many corruption scandals recently. He isn’t a nice man at all – he’s frequently drunk and hits his wife. Father and son haven’t really got on for many years with Shinji blaming his father for causing his older brother’s death in 1964. Shinji has even legally separated from his family and taken his mother’s name instead. One day he meets his old school teacher on the metro station platform who remembers Shinji and his brother and reminds him of the circumstances of his brother’s death (the anniversary of which is today). As Shinji says goodbye to his teacher and heads up the stairs for the exit he thinks he sees his dead brother in exactly the same clothes he wore on the night of his death. He follows him up to the exit and outside to the street and finds himself back in 1964 just as the Tokyo Olympics are starting. He tries to change the past by meeting his brother and telling him not to go out of the house that night in order to prevent his death but on returning to the present day he realises that nothing has changed. Shinji is warned however that there will be a ripple in time because of his actions. Subsequent trips to the past sees Shinji in other eras (post and pre WWII) with his mistress also finding herself being involved in his time travelling journeys. What is the reason for Shinji to go back in time and is it for him to sort out the only real problem in his life – his father?

This is a very interesting and intriguing movie about fractured family relationships which uses time travel as an aid for the main character to confront his past especially his difficult relationship with his father. It’s not really explained what sets off these time travel jumps for Shinji and how he is able to go back to the past – it’s my theory that his old school teacher isn’t what he seems to be – perhaps an angel of sorts? All we are shown is a shot of a metro train speeding through a subway tunnel and when he wakes up he is back in the past. It does make the viewer wonder at times if Shinji is actually dreaming the entire scenario. It’s a nice plot device for Shinji to gain a better understanding of how his father turned out the way he would be in the present and as Shinji’s mistress Michiko tells him he’s not really that much different from his father in that he is distant and cold to his own wife and son. The only difference as such is Shinji isn’t as ruthless as his father and definitely not as abusive. Gradually though through his travels in the past he comes to understand, admire and even love his father which is enough to spark a reconciliation between the two in the present day before he passes away. He sees a side to him during his time travelling he didn’t know before. That’s not to say that his father has miraculously changed his behaviour for the better by this time but Shinji knows the reasons why he is the way he is and so he changes his feelings for him. I did find it difficult to believe that he forgave his father as easily as he did considering the deep hatred Shinji had for him. There is a tragic aspect to the storyline as we come near the climax involving a secret about Michiko which affects her relationship with Shinji.

From my own personal experience of riding the Tokyo metro I loved the shots inside the stations and the platforms which made me long to be back in Tokyo itself. As with the Always trilogy which lovingly recreated the past so the filmmakers in this movie need to be congratulated for bringing the streets and metro trains of Tokyo before, during and after the war to life again. You really do believe you’re back in the past.

I enjoyed this time travel story which has a couple of unexpected twists along the way. Great acting by the cast.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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