Sakura Ando, Akira Emoto, Masahiko Tsugawa
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…a beautiful film that says a lot about Japanese society…
Momoko Ando’s 0.5mm is a meditation on the generation gap as it pertains to Japanese culture – the divide between the young and those old enough to remember when their country was at war. It is an epic yarn told primarily through the perspective of caregiver Sawa (played by Momoko’s IRL sister Sakura), with each act following her employ under a different older gentleman, looking after them, learning about their lives, and occasionally doing bizarre things for them.
Starting with a sequence that echoes Yasunari Kawabata’s House Of The Sleeping Beauties, as Sawa is asked to sleep with her ward (in the most literal sense; no sex, just in the same bed) because he misses his mother’s breasts; what follows involves episodes with a literal bicycle thief, a lecherous war survivor, and a jaded man who wants to burn his family’s inheritance; all done to highlight how disconnected these men are from everyone else, as dependent as children, but without the innocence or hope for what comes next. Sawa performs as surrogate mother/wife for people so lonely that they’ll willingly go along with scam artists just for someone to talk to. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.
And Momoko wants the audience to witness every second of that tragedy. She treats time much like David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, where the prolonged lingering on every moment is meant to draw the audience’s attention to the passage of time, both on our side of the screen and as warped by the standard conventions of film editing. The audience, awash in classical music and domestic horror, is forced to take note of just how much time these men have already lived through, how much has changed for them and, more depressingly, how much hasn’t.
It’s a beautiful film that says a lot about Japanese society, how it treats the elderly, and the internal effect of its involvement in world wars… but such an experience bears a heavy cost. It has all manner of thematic rationales for its pace and methodology, from its title referring to the speed at which we go through life, to the line “Punishing roads expose life for what it is. Nothing in life is wasted.”
But none of that changes just how glacial this film’s progression is. The ability to recommend this is entirely dependent on one’s capacity for slow cinema. If you’re able to appreciate Ozu-esque storytelling, you might be able to absorb all the harrowing details at full emotional power. But if the idea of a film breaking three hours sounds more like a trial than entertainment, then a trial is what awaits you.