Film: Night Boat (Yoru no Fune)
Director: Kōji Onoguchi
Writer: Kōji Onoguchi
Now this is a bit of a difficult movie to review here. I come to expect that when you’re dealing with the Midnight Features at the Nightmares Film Festival. This movie is getting its North American premiere as well. The synopsis I will use here is that we follow an odd story of individuals in this small village affected by different aspects of the sea.
That is a pretty rough synopsis if I’m going to be honest. I waited too long to relay what was listed on the site to watch this and there isn’t really anything listed on the Letterboxed page. I couldn’t find any information on the Internet Movie Database or doing a Google search for a bit more information.
We start this with a little girl singing a song in English. Her father is impressed by this, wondering were she learned it. She relays from school and this is a tune about being over the sea. It then moves into more of the present day where this little girl has grown up to be Ryoko. She is a personal chef for a gentleman. Things take a turn that night when she invites over her boyfriend. They get drunk on this guy’s alcohol until they discover, he killed himself in the bathtub. They have to decide what to do with the body.
There is also a sequence in a bar where the father from the beginning is spending his time. There’s a young woman at a table who is staring at him and he keeps stealing glances. We also get an interesting crosscut of the city where there is a group of the more wealthy residence bragging about what they have. This gets under the skin of the other patrons who believe they stole the rights and made the money that they have now.
The backdrop for all of this is seeing in pitch black with just the lights to make out details of a ship. There are coordinates being relayed along with the weather reports for different areas. It appears that in Japanese culture, much like with the Greeks, there is thought to be a night boat that takes those who have passed on to the land of the dead. Ryoko believes that her father disappeared all these years ago to go on an adventure across the sea as well. We see that might not be the case though. There is also an ancient mariner it seems from this boat that punishes those that deserve it and take them on this night’s journey.
Now that’s where I want to leave my recap of the movie and also lead off the analysis for it stating that this is really an arthouse film. It is filmed in black and white. There isn’t much in the way of story and is really driven by the performances from the actors. That’s not to say that it bad or anything along those lines. I do feel that this film is really designed more though for people knowing more of the lore to fully appreciate it so there is some lost on me.
What I find interesting here is the character of Ryoko and her fascination with this song. We hear her sing it quite a few times and even the melody a few times. Jaime didn’t even watch this with me and the song got stuck in her head. I took that earlier on, she likes to sing it because it gets attention from her father. It then becomes a way of remembering him. Aside from that, I like that at one point she states Ryo means water and it also means the end.
For me as a viewer, I would like to know more about the lore behind this. We get an odd scene where Ryoko’s boyfriend urinates dark liquid. This will come back into play later into this film as well. I don’t necessarily get why they decide to do what they do with this man they find dead. What I did like is that they decide to eat all of the food that she prepared for that week for him. There’s an interesting look at what they did though here as well. Ryoko is feasting as it appears to not bother her while her boyfriend is struggling.
Aside from that, I love the socio-economic issues that we get from the bar scene. That is something that is quite relevant now for sure. I would like to know about this ancient mariner looking character that shows up briefly near the end. There is a really cool scene with him. It actually has one of my favorite images of this movie associated with it.
Really to just wrap up this review, I think this is really an interesting movie. If I have a major issue with it, it would be that I want more. They don’t necessarily flesh out things all that well so I feel that is a bit of an issue. I really do like the arthouse aspects of the movie. I thought the acting was good for what they needed. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but it also doesn’t necessarily need them. I love the recurring song they use in the movie as it is quite haunting to be honest. I can’t recommend this movie to everyone, but if you’re more into types like this, definitely give this a go if you can find it. I’d rate this as just over average as it is lacking a bit too much to really click with me.
My Rating: 6 out of 10