iSugio

A Man With Style – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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As a young child, 13-year-old Junichi Miyata was bullied at school and cried easily. He made a promise to himself that he would grow up into a “cool guy” – not so easily displaying his emotions. Now as a middle-aged man, Junichi Miyata works as a driver for a parcel delivery company. He lives with his two kids, unemployed 19-year-old Toshiya & 18-year-old Momoko. Junichi’s wife passed away from stomach cancer several years earlier. Junichi now finds it difficult to communicate with his kids and he’s worried that he has cancer like his late wife. Junichi then visits old friend Sanada to talk about his problems. Miyata hopes to graduate from college and build fond memories with his children before it’s too late.

Yuya Ishii has become quite the peculiar director within the last several years, offering a series of offbeat comedic films that have led him to be one of the most distinctive Japanese directors to come about in some time. With such creative films as Sawako Decides (2010), To Walk Beside You (2010), and Girl Sparks (2008) already under his belt, Ishii has established himself as one willing to tackle and combine contemporary social issues with that of slight humor. This approach has infused his work with an unusual charm and identifiable presence, mainly due to his astute nature as a writer towards his own films. In perhaps one of Ishii’s most realized works to date, A Man With Style focuses upon the emotional impact that losing a prominent member of a family has on those left behind and the difficulty in moving on, all within the confinement of Ishii’s trademark odd humor, seemingly ordinary protagonists, and commonplace settings.

While Ishii’s previous films have been centered on the bizarre day-to-day routines and relationships of its characters, A Man With Style showcases a more serious tone concerning the intimate familial structure of three individuals, all whom face an inability to connect on an emotional level due to them experiencing a tragic loss. The film doesn’t view this loss as overtly sentimental in the slightest but rather as an unfortunate and real occurrence that everyone must eventually face—that of losing someone close to you, and in the film’s case, the family’s matriarch. The film focuses particularly on that of Junichi Miyata in regards to this tragedy, played here by the impressive Ken Mitsuishi. Giving a subdued but emotionally charged performance, Mitsuishi showcases his prowess as an actor in playing the role of a father completely out of touch with his own children and desperately attempting to find some reconciliation. With his newfound position as a single parent, we see Junichi as a man yearning for the past when life was happier—his children enthusiastically supporting him, his health good, and his wife still happily alive. In reality, what we see is a shattered man, but also one never willing to give up on supporting his family—even if it that feeling isn’t mutually shared by his children.

Ishii is keen to show how the family structure is considerably impaired when the mother is removed from it. The social readjusting that must occur is tremendous, with the role of the motherly caretaker being shifted to that of the father figure. In Japanese society, the roles of mother and father are often deemed separate in many ways, with not too much overlap being permissible or encouraged. The rippling effect that results from such a hierarchical shift is not only visibly seen in Junichi, but also that of his two children as well. Toshiya (Ryu Morioka) and Momoko (Jun Yoshinaga) are seen as individuals seemingly lost as to who they are after the passing of their mother, with their detached relationship with their father growing ever so wider. The two have become accustomed to a life of apathy and a clear lack of concern for their future academic careers—quite similar to their father’s initial predicament of getting ignorantly drunk to forget the pain. With this in mind, A Man With Style considers the difficulty in understanding pain and one’s attempts in dealing with it, whether this is seen in self exclusion from one’s own family or idleness in one’s own life, the film doesn’t deliver any simple solution in regards to overcoming such emotional obstacles. Ishii never situates these characters as ones easily removed from the past but rather constantly having to face it on a daily basis, which shows the genuine nature of the film’s narrative. The film’s honesty in conveying such hardships is where it succeeds in offering a portrait of a family tinged with seemingly inescapable memories of the past, an approach that makes their reconciliatory efforts all the more powerful to witness.

Ishii, a director who has effectively brought forth unique characters within each of his previous films, offers through A Man With Style a film that is deeply invested in the healing process of an entire family rather than singular characters. This novel approach establishes the film as a very heartfelt and challenging foray into issues such as death, familial bonds, and the uncertain future. Ishii has certainly shown growth as a director with these ideals, with his vision of delivering a damaged family succeeding in almost every way. While A Man With Style may not be as humorous as Ishii’s previous films, his charismatic appeal for finding elements of comedy in the most earnest of situations is still an ever present facet of the narrative. With a more extensive focus on the intricacies of the family unit in relation to loss, Ishii delegates most of the film towards the necessity of these characters to amend their kinship to one another. This garners the film a significantly more emotional take on the events that transpire over the course of its narrative, with A Man With Style being yet another shining example of the shrewd ability of Ishii as a director to elicit the downtrodden nature of his films with hope and a little bit of wittiness to go along with it.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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