Sunday, 7 October 2012

Matataki (Blink)

Poster of Matataki

a.k.a. ‘Piecing Me Back Together’ was a 2010 movie I watched this afternoon to quench my thirst of another Okada Masaki performance. The movie didn’t disappoint me, although Masaki’s screen time wasn’t a lot there. It wasn’t because he wasn’t the main actor. He was. But rather, because Matataki is telling the story of Sonoda Izumi (Kitagawa Keiko), a young woman whose boyfriend died during a traffic accident they experienced together.

Yep, Matataki is a sad story. Sad, but encouraging as well in the end. It didn’t stop me from crying like a baby, though. My eyes were wet into the first 5 minutes of the movie. I wailed – yes, wailed – during several scenes. I sobbed when I learned what truly happened to Izumi and Junichi Konou (Masaki’s character). But here I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. After the trailers below, I post the recap of Matataki. Heavy spoilers, so for those who want to see it online here (English subbed) without spoilers, you better stop reading this.  

So, the story opened with Izumi stepping down from a bus that took her to a mental hospital. She’s not crazy or having a manic depression or things like that. But she had to undergo regular consultations because of a traffic accident she had a while ago. The traffic accident was terrible, such that it took the life of her boyfriend Junichi. Strangely, she was left relatively unscathed after the accident. Izumi couldn’t remember anything though. Her psychiatrist suggested that she took time, for the accident ‘only’ happened two weeks ago. 

So, Izumi tried to live her normal live. She lived with her big brother and father (her mother passed away seven years ago) where they opened a small vehicle workshop. Izumi worked in a flower shop owned by her aunt. In fact, because of her work, she met Junichi. 

Junichi's first meeting with Izumi, screen cap

It was winter when Izumi went to deliver some flowers at a ballroom, where she stopped to admire a beautiful Christmas mural. She wasn’t careful tho, she tripped and destroyed the carefully painted mural. The painter demanded that she went out with him to make up for the mess there. The painter was Junichi.

So Izumi and Junichi started dating. Jun-chan (that’s how Izumi called him) was an art student, but he still had time to stop by at her father’s workshop to help out. Their romance was believable and simple, without significant drama. Except for one. Around the time Jun-chan had to make his final art piece for graduation, he lost his inspiration. He simply couldn’t draw anything. He showed Izumi a beautiful postcard painted by an Iraqi boy who lost one of his arms due to war. Jun-chan said he couldn’t produce such a heartfelt art. Being a normal woman, Izumi tried to help. But Jun refused her help and excommunicated her for three months. 

Just when Izumi thought everything had ended, Jun realised that he still loved her. They met again by the bridge that connected their two suburbs. Crying, Izumi said that Jun was very mean and she didn’t get him (guess what? Many boys his age are like that...). Jun said sorry and embraced her in his warmth. ‘I will never leave you again,’ he said. 

Junichi (Okada Masaki) & Izumi (Kitagawa Keiko), screen cap
Then came the fateful day when Jun asked Izumi out to view the blooming sakura. It was the end of the season, and Izumi had to take some time off her work for that. Izumi hesitated. Later, Jun would leave a message in her inbox, stating that it is okay not to see the sakura this time. There will be another opportunity next year, and the year after. 

It was the last voice mail Jun left for Izumi. Somehow, Izumi decided to have a ride with Jun anyway. The next day, they took off to view the sakura. Izumi laughed at Jun, for he had a sakura petal falling on his nose. I don’t know if they kissed or not; there was no such a scene in this movie. But they were happy.

Izumi viewing the sakura, screen cap

 Until the time they had to go home via a tunnel that linked their two suburbs. A truck suddenly came from the other side of the tunnel. It seemed that the truck turned too fast and lost control. Jun’s motorbike hit the truck head on. In the accident, Jun died, but Izumi lived. Izumi couldn’t recall what happened during the accident. She only remembered the truck coming straight on, and afterwards, everything was black. The next memory she had was when she was at the hospital and learned that Jun-chan had died.

For fear of further shock, no one told Izumi what truly happened during the accident. But then, after a psychiatric session one day, Izumi met a mid 30s woman who told her not to take the anti-depressant pills too much. Learning that the woman, Kirino Makiko (Otsuka Nene), was a lawyer, Izumi hired her to investigate what truly happened during the accident. Kirino rejected Izumi’s request several times because: 1) Makiko herself was an outpatient at the same psychiatric clinic, and 2) Makiko wasn’t a lawyer specialised in crime or traffic accident. But Izumi’s persistent prevailed, and Makiko found herself investigating the truth behind the accident. 

Kirino Makiko (Otsura Nene) helping Izumi piecing her past

From several interviews, it appeared that Izumi ‘lost’ 10 minutes of her memory during the accident. No one saw the accident. The truck driver died on the spot. Jun apparently was alive when the paramedics found him. He would later die in the hospital. The person who reported the accident was not a witness. From Jun’s defective watch (the watch stopped working because of the impact), the paramedics arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after the impact. During those time, Izumi recalled nothing. But several strange things were apparent then: 1) why did Izumi only experience minor injuries, whereas Jun experienced major injuries? ; 2) Junichi seemed to have time to steer the bike’s handlebar. Yet, he didn’t. Why?

Director Isumora Itsumichi showed Matataki in repeated flashback modes. Each time Izumi remembered something, there would be the scene of the past. The first half of the movie showed Izumi’s pre-accident relationship with Junichi. Only the second half started to show what might have transpired during the accident. We learned several horrid things during Makiko’s investigations: Junichi’s backbone was destroyed; he lost three fingers and some heavy fractures. Had he lived, he would have to depend on support system for the rest of his life. Then one day Izumi received a letter from Junichi’s mother who lived in Izumo. Mrs Konou expressed her gratitude that Izumi loved her son so much.  Such that during the accident Izumi would wrap her own handkerchief over Junichi’s arm, trying to stop the bleeding. Enclosed in the letter, the handkerchief brought back a piece of memory to Izumi’s blank mind. She remembered the scene where she wrapped her handkerchief over Junichi’s bleeding arm. But beyond that, she didn’t remember a thing.

In an attempt to understand her lawyer (including why Makiko needed regular therapy), Izumi asked Makiko why the busy lawyer eventually agreed to help her. ‘In addition to your persistence,’ explained Makiko, ‘it was because you reminded me of my sister.’ Makiko had her own troubled past with her sister, who was injured during one of the many fights between their parents. Makiko ran away to Tokyo, and never reconciled with her sister. Knowing that the sister was in Tokyo for a few days, Izumi tried to mend the bridge between the sisters, and made it. 

Afterwards, Makiko took Izumi to the fateful tunnel. It was the first time Izumi visited the site after the accident, but she had been in a better mental state than during the last few months. Makiko drove Izumi through the tunnel and stopped. Izumi walked back to the tunnel. And there, right there, she remembered what happened during the missing 10 minutes.

Contrary to what I suspected, Junichi wasn’t speeding back then. The truck lost control and was going to hit the motorbike. Get this: Instead of steering the bike handlebar to avoid the impact, Junichi turned back at Izumi and hugged her. He tried to protect her from the impact. In a way, he made it. Izumi was safe because most of the impact was taken by Junichi’s body.

Junichi trying to protect Izumi, screen cap

That was why Junichi experienced major injuries and lost his three fingers. That was also why Izumi lost her memories. Because – upon regaining consciousness a few minutes later – she realised that Jun-chan wasn’t responsive and he had lost his three fingers. In a very heartbreaking scene, Izumi crawled here and there trying to collect the three fingers and put them back together. She couldn’t make it, so she started bandaging Jun’s arm with her hanky. And when the pressure was too much for her, she started to lose consciousness. At that time, Jun whispered faintly, ‘Izumi is...’ Izumi couldn’t hear what he said because darkness took her.

So that was what happened. Junichi died because of protecting his lover. With this knowledge, Izumi went to Izumo to visit Mrs. Konou. Afterwards, at the advice of an old lady who had lost her husband during WWII, Izumi went on to a nearby hill. The hill is said to connect the living world and the world of the deceased; indeed, the old lady saw an apparition of her husband’s for the last time a few years back. Izumi's intense desire to see Junichi once more for the last time took her to the hill. There, she heard what she had wanted to hear. 

She heard Junichi whispering, ‘Izumi...’
And when she said, ‘What? I can’t hear you, Junichi...’
The voice whispered back, ‘Izumi is... alive...?’

Junichi’s last sentence was ‘Is Izumi alive...?’ 

Junichi’s last wish was to know whether the love of his life is alive, whether his effort to save her wasn’t for nothing.

Izumi cried and replied, ‘I am alive. I am living on.’

I cried too. Wailing, like a baby. Such that I had to watch Ogon No Buta (The Golden Piggy) to see the funny Masaki playing an audit officer there, and wander around the net just to make sure he’s still alive. I know, I’m such a loser here...

Performance-wise, despite his short screen time (Masaki’s accumulated time was, like, 20 min top), Masaki was admirable as always. The way he protected Keiko, I mean Izumi, during the accident scene was heartbreaking and heart-warming at the same time. The way he asked if his girlfriend was alive was more than enough to make me search for more tissue. Otsuka Nene was also charming in her own way as Izumi's advisor. She reminded me of Nakatani Miki who played Chief Nurse in Holy Monster (Seinaru Kaibutsutachi), minus the creepy attitude. 

For the actress, it was interesting to learn that Keiko played as Masaki’s teacher in Homeroom on the Beachside (2008). She is only three years older than Masaki, but she actually pulled a convincing young high school teacher that teaches Masaki’s class. Thus, when I learned that Keiko-san was playing as Masaki’s girlfriend in Matataki, I was like, really? But she was his teacher before!

Masaki & Keiko onboard a tour bus at Shibuya

But Masaki and Keiko were a convincing couple in Matataki. Their romance was believable. Sweet, but not saccharin sweet. Keiko delivered a great performance portraying a woman trying to piece her past together without being overly melodramatic. Her acting was convincing, it was something that a normal person would do in such circumstances. No wonder the movie received such a warm reception; many tickets were even sold in advance!

Below is the theme song (Aitai Kara = I want to see you) by Korean singer 'K':

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