Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘True Mothers’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘True Mothers’

Days came and go and only fiction can keep track of them. True Mothers depicts, through a flashback structure, the lives of two families who find a connection through a boy, Asato (Reo Sato). The first of those families are the Kuriharas (Hiromi Nagasaku and Arata Iura), struggling to conceive.

Their last resort was an adoption agency, and the film them becomes a window to at least one agency in Japan with archaic rules about adoption. The contrasts are interesting here, as the film depicts the agency’s rules and the parents who live under them with a delicate, loving eye.

The tragedy here becomes more apparent as it switches to the past life of Hikari Katakura (Aju Makita). She’s Asato’s biological mother, who, fifty minutes into the film, experiences young love for the first time. Little does she know about the society that makes her pay for that love.

That social commentary is really what this film is about, as it smoothly transitions into a more docudrama style. Kawase uses a handheld camera here to show Hikari’s life as a ward of the adoption agency. She lives with fellow young mothers, the camera closing up on those characters’ moments.

Another aspect that reinforces the tragedy here is watching these characters droop as time passes them by. A cynical way of looking at how the film depicts this is how everyone’s hair looks different eventually. But even those cheesy techniques feel effective, especially in depicting how time affects minor characters.

I can also see other viewers preferring that the film take less common arcs for these characters. That’s true when it comes to what forces Hikari back into the Kuriharas’ lives, but there’s an effectives here. It’s all really about the poignant few words that characters share with each other.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch 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.
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