Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019: Our Review of ‘Ningyo no nemuru ie’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019: Our Review of ‘Ningyo no nemuru ie’

Films about different abilities or ones about ethical dilemmas are difficult and that’s not because those subjects are difficult. It’s mostly because many of the people who make films don’t tackle those subjects with any regard to sensitivity. Despite minor awkwardness, Japanese filmmaker Yukihiko Tsutsumi mostly accomplishes to evince sensitivity in his new film Ningyo no nemuru ie. Its English title is The House Where the Mermaid Sleeps, and the mermaid, of course, is metaphorical.

The film’s titular mermaid is Mizuho Harima who, because of a poolside accident, experiences a near fatal case of brain damage. This is as much about her as it is the family and the professionals keeping her alive. Tsutsumi uses effective visual language to depict the lives of those people, even while depicting sanitized hospital spaces. He eventually moves out of those and portrays Japan in the seasonal glory that Mizuho can’t experience for herself.

As beautiful as this film is, it is a melodrama and exhibits the sub genre’s lesser tendencies. Two of the people keeping Mizuho alive is, obviously, her mother Kaoruko (Ryôko Shinohara) and a scientist, Yuya Hoshino (Kentarô Sakaguchi). Their relationship doesn’t go the way any other movie would, but they instead become almost like mad scientists. Pathetic fallacies also come into play whenever Kaoruko talks, especially in a scene when she refers to Hoshino as Mizuho’s second father.

Despite that, this film is a capable examination of those ethical dilemmas in a Japanese context. Through his cinematography and sets, Tsustumi shows his understandably ambivalent stance on modernity’s influence on the Harima family. That influence specifically gives Kaoruko hope that Mizuho can recover from her brain damage and be a regular girl. The film decides, inevitably, whether or not holding on to Mizuho is a valid thing to be doing.

  • Release Date: 6/15/2019
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');