Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Under the Open Sky’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Under the Open Sky’

Mikami is a former Yakuza member who gets out of jail after a thirteen year prison sentence for murder. This film follows his like in February 2017, when that sentence ends, but it has that one flashback scene taking its viewers to the court proceedings that gets him that sentence. That scene reveals the circumstances that mitigate our perceptions when we hear ‘Yakuza’. See, he was defending his wife from a stalker who was approaching them with a sword. But defending himself and his wife with another sword was enough for the courts to see intent that justifies his sentence. That scene, as expository as it is, shows that past version on Mikami and how even his support system fails him. His wife’s cries fall on the court’s deaf ears. He has support in 2017, but some of it comes from a TV producer (Masami Nagasawa) who might exploit him.

MIkami’s arc towards redemption has its stumbling blocks. In the leading role, Koji Yakusho does his best in depicting a character that can go from a meek old man to a raging one within seconds, but the film has too many of those transitions. The tropes in capturing that arc can also make viewers think of a Western version of this where some of us would actually want him not to go straight and return to the Yakuza. And pardon the slight spoilers, but he does return only for a woman to tell him about how younger members undercut the older members. But of course, I’m writing about those slight spoilers because there’s more to the film and his story. And there’s aesthetic choices here that shows that even in dramatic highs, the film eventually chooses subtlety. And that’s a good approach in depicting a man with complex needs.

This post was written by
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.
Comments are closed.