Special Presentations

The Long Excuse

Miwa Nishikawa

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A recently widowed writer whose wife died in a bus crash (Masahiro Motoki, Departures) impulsively offers to care for the children of a working man who lost his wife in the same accident, in this gently humorous drama from Japanese writer-director Miwa Nishikawa (Dreams for Sale).

The latest from Japanese writer-director Miwa Nishikawa — most recently at the Festival four years ago with Dreams for Sale — is a tender, wise, and humorous exploration of the space between sentimental pretense and genuine feeling.

The Long Excuse begins with an ending: though he does not realize it, popular writer Sachio Kinugasa (Masahiro Motoki) is seeing his wife Natsuko (Eri Fukatsu) for the last time. Natsuko cuts his hair, as she's done for 20 years, before boarding a bus. Shortly thereafter, while cheating on Natsuko with another woman, Sachio learns that the bus has crashed and Natsuko is dead. Their marriage was friendly, not loving, but now Sachio must publicly perform the role of bereaved spouse.

Then Sachio meets Yoichi (Pistol Takehara), a father of two children, who also lost his wife in the accident. Unlike Sachio's forced grief, Yoichi's is unbridled and very real. Sachio has never been a father, or even much of a husband, but he offers to look after Yoichi's children. He also discovers human connections of a sort he's never known.

Based on Nishikawa's own novel, The Long Excuse is elegantly structured and grounded in character. It is a showcase for the talents of Motoki, who was so memorable as the hero in the Academy Award–winning Departures. The personal transformation his Sachio undertakes is full of joy and sadness, and it is touching to behold.

GIOVANNA FULVI

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