Japanese Story

Year: 2003
Director: Sue Brooks
Producer: Sue Maslin
Writer: Alison Tilson
Cast: Toni Collette
Everyone's raving about this movie at the moment, saying how Collette gives the performance of her career. And make no mistake, she does.

The trouble with the movie however is that that's all it gives you - a stellar performance (two in fact; one by the landscape of the WA's Pilbara region outback). What's it really about? Hard to say. What's it trying to tell us? Even harder to say.

Sandy (Collette) is sent to mind a Japanese businessman who's presumably investing in the far northern WA mining industry (we're never told if that's the case; it doesn't really matter to the story much anyway). A geologist and 21st century grrl, she objects heartily to being his chauffer and tour guide.

At his insistence, she drives so far into the desert heart they get bogged, and spent the first night together sleeping on the ground, stuck miles from anywhere.

You think it's going to be the story of them making it back to civilisation and falling in love in the process, but they dig themselves out the next day and you wonder where the story's going.

Bizarrely, the next night she's getting into bed with him. There seems no transition between her resenting his presence and shagging him. To make matters worse, I was starting to think all the movie magazines creaming over her gutsy performance were going to be simply because she gets her gear off in front of the camera.

The story has shifted in an entirely new direction and they become lovebirds, frolicking in a gorge billabong together.

Then the story turns a hard corner in the biggest about face in a movie storyline for ages. He dives into the water, disappears, floats to the top dead minutes later, and the rest of the movie deals with Sandy trying to arrange his body to be transported, all the while seeming torn up over the love she lost with him, meeting his wife and trying to reconcile everything.

Collette's performance kicks in after his death, and she commands the screen for most of the movie then on with her raw portrayal of shock and sorrow. But his body is flown home with the wife, nothing is really solved and the movie doesn't seem to have said anything in particular. Maybe it would have made a better stageplay.

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