Film Review: BEFORE WE VANISH (Japan 2017)

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Before We Vanish Poster
Three aliens travel to Earth in preparation for a mass invasion, taking possession of human bodies.


Kiyoshi Kurosawa


Tomohiro Maekawa (based on the play by),Kiyoshi Kurosawa (screenplay) | 1 more credit »


Before watching BEFORE WE VANISH or reading this review of BEFORE WE VANISH, it is best that a bit of background be known of the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in North America as an art-house horror director with films like CURE and PULSE both of which I have seen but have not praised.  His best film to date is PENANCE, made for Japanese TV but screened here at the Toronto International Film Festival  and also played at Cannes which won Kurosawa the Best Director Award in the Un Certain Regard Section at Cannes.  Korosawa’s latest, BEFORE WE VANISH (Sanpo suru shinryakusha), is a sci-fi thriller that also serves as a story about the redemptive power of love, played at Cannes 2017 in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.  Not his best film, but interesting, nevertheless.  It should be noted that the film is based on the play by Tomoshiro Maekawa, and co-written with Sachiko Tanaka.

There are strange goings-on in an otherwise ordinary Japanese town.  While investigating a gruesome murder, journalist Sakurai (Hiroki Hasegawa) meets two aliens (Yuri Tsunematsu and Mahiro Takasugi) who have taken up residence in human hosts.  Preparing for a takeover of the planet, the aliens are not only snatching bodies, but also robbing humans of values (family, 

work, good, evil, etc.), leaving only hollow shells, all but unrecognizable to their loved ones.  Meanwhile a third alien has taken over a man named Shinji Ryuhei Matsuda).  After disappearing for several days, Shinji reappears, acting nothing like his former self.  His marriage to Narumi had been on the rocks.  But Shinji seems kinder now.  As chaos ensues, Sakurai and 

Narumi each must make a decision.  Narumi’s, in particular, is heartbreaking.

Interesting though the premise might seem, bringing down an alien invasion down to the personal level, the film has major problems, primarily in the credibility of its story.  The invasion is supposed to take place, masterminded by just three aliens who have taken over human bodies.  Two of them need to find the third, Shinji for success.  The conception idea is a good one, when aliens absorb a human concept from a human.  But the film’s climax is silly and gets worse when the film concludes to a period of two years after the conclusion, when reverse conception takes place.  The film runs into even more problems when Kurosawa brings in human values to save the world.  Kusrosawa turns too preachy as well with a sermon on love: “Love never records wrongs; love never gets angry… etc.”

As talented as Kurosawa is and as good as his best films are, BEFORE WE VANISH is a major disappointment.  Silly even from the very start from the way aliens inhabits bodies or captures conception, the premise might have succeeded in an artsy play, as is the source material, but moviegoers expect certain rules to be followed in a sci-fi alien invasion thriller.  



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Movie Review: OUR LITTLE SISTER (Japan 2015) ***

our_little_sisterOUR LITTLE SISTER (Japan 2015) ***
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-da

Starring: Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho

Review by Gilbert Seah

Though not his best, the latest from Kore-da (AFTER LIFE, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON) contains all the charm and some traits from his best films. In OUR LITTLE SISTER, a character remarks that God has not created perfectly and it is up to man to make the best of it. Like his masterpiece AFTER LIFE, in which human beings after death have to film their best memories to take to heaven to remember forever, humans make a big difference in the lives of Kore-da’s characters.

Three grown sisters (Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa and Kaho) who live in their late grandmother’s sprawling home in Kamakura, a genteel city south of Tokyo take their teenage half sister, Suzu (Suzu Hirose) to live with them after their father’s death. The seasons drift by, marked by the arrival of cherry blossoms (beautifully shot), the making of plum wine, or a showering of fireworks.

The sister learn to deal better with their problems. The neat thing about this film is the observation of the behaviour of Japanese sisters. The film would turn out a whole lot differently if it were set in America with a dysfunctional family of sisters. The film is based on the graphic novel by Akimi Yoshida. A pleasant and occasional charming drama about life.

The film played In Competition at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The film has since won 10 awards, including Best Film and Best Director at the 2016 Japanese Academy Awards.