Sure, Complicity uses darkness to depict spaces in which Chen Liang (Lu Yulai). It’s kind of on the nose, but I’ll allow it here because of its proper minimalism. Chen Liang, after all, is using a fake name, Liu, to work in Japan. He’s as a soba chef under a man (Tatsuya Fuji) and his waitress wife (Kio Matsumoto). They give him room, board, and clothing. And he always wants to leave because someone is always on the verge of finding him out.
Writer-director Kei Chikaura tells the story of this de facto working family. Here he subtly unleashes the tension among them. The tension is mostly between the two men, even if it’s a one-way dynamic. Chen Liang is comfortable enough to call his wise and practical boss Father while being under the latter’s perpetual disappointment. Despite going ballistic about food, Father still gives Chen Liang tough love. And of course, there’s the consequences of Father discovering Chen Liang’s real name. It’s game over, or not.
All of this plays out in a film that cares more about its characters than adorning itself visually. That happens organically, as it looks both light and cool. There’s enough sweat covering both men expressing its proletarian milieu. Lu himself embodies a new version of an Asian male, neither too twink-y nor hyper masculine. He’s just the right kind of guy who embodies the receiving end of a practical education. He suits a character enhancing his mind and his body despite his burdens.