Every year, there are new graduates at the Tokyo University of the Arts and, every year, these graduates try to prove their worth in their graduation work. While many graduation works are made, only a few of them succeed in making the rounds at film-festivals. One such graduation work is Tatsuro Nishikawa’s first feature film: The Other Home (2018).
Just after the summer holiday, Hagi Morita (Ayumu Mochizuki) and his friend Saito (Seiichi Kohinata) receive bad news from their teacher. Due to her marriage and her plan to become a stay-at-home housewife, the fishing club she was responsible for is getting disbanded.
Due to the disbanding of his club, Hagi loses all interest in school and starts skipping school. His behaviour, seen as childish by his girlfriend Naruse (Mahiru Ueda), puts his relationship with her under stress. Then, one day, Hagi discovers that his father, Yoshiro (Toru Kizu), has a second house where his lover, Ms. Toko Mukai (Mai Otani), lives. Yoshiro asks his son to help him break up with her.
The Other Home is a narrative that, by using the device of adultery, explores the role that ideal images play without our romantic relationships as well as how such images can install a suffocating semblance for true subjective speech. The first aspect is touched upon within the relational troubles between Hagi and his girlfriend Naruse – the coming-of-age part of The Other Home, while the second is touched upon in the relation between Hagi’s father Yoshiro and Naoko (Mana Minamikumatsu), his mother – the familial drama part of the narrative.
When Yoshiro discovers the extra-marital affair of his father, this discovery puts Hagi’s father’s position as man into question – he cannot break-up with her, so he turns to his son to help him. In fact, Yoshiro’s revelation of his affair as well as his demand for help reveals him as a troubled subject. He undresses himself from the image of father/man his son projected on him to show his son a glimpse of his subjective conflict.
Yoshiro’s discovery of the extra-marital affair also calls the nature of his parents’ peaceful relation into question. The mutual understanding that marks the parental relationship is laid bare as a fiction, a fiction hiding and even repressing the dimension of non-understanding that structurally marks the relation between two human subjects. Behind the imaginary parental relational harmony lies, in other words, the impossibility for Yoshiro to truly express himself as subject (Narra-note 1).
It is by being confronted with the subjective position of the father that Hagi in his interactions with Toko can start questioning his position as man with relation to his girlfriend. While Hagi, at first, brushes off being called immature by his girlfriend – he skips school, does not enter a new club, and cannot even ride a bicycle, his encounter with Toko allows him to assume his current immaturity and embark, by slowly identifying with the ideal image of a man that Naruse has, on a path of becoming more manly. In other words, meeting Toko allows him to assume his failure of being the boyfriend and man Naruse wants and desires him to be and to undertake an attempt to become more akin the ideal image of a man and boyfriend his girlfriend has.
Tatsuro’s cinematographical composition – a concatenation of static moments mixed with subtle and temperate dynamic moments – stands out due to its simplicity. While composing a narrative in such a straightforward is, of course, one of the safest options for emerging directors, Nishikawa shows, with his narrative, that a simple cinematographical approach can also be visually pleasing (Cine-note 1).
But the visual pleasure of The Other Home is, in this case, not to be found in the way of composing as such, but in the way colour is applied – in the way the narrative spaces are, at the editing board, beautified. What makes Nishikawa’s narrative so visually pleasing is his subtle use of soft ‘yellowish’ or ‘summery’ colours as well as his application of noise.
The Other Home is a beautifully shot narrative that touches upon the necessity of the imaginary within matters of romance as well as upon the dangers inherent to the imaginary semblant. By blending a coming-of-age narrative with familial drama, Nishikawa shows, in a heartwarming way, that while there is a need to identify ourselves somewhat with the ideal image of our significant other, such identification should not be at the expense of our subjective position.
Narra-note 1: One of the most pleasing aspects of the narrative lies in the fact that Tatsuro leaves Yoshiro’s subjective position undefined. Even though it is hinted at what conflict drove him into Toko’s arms, the narrative ends without truly making this conflict explicit.
Cine-note 1: The sole aspect that is less straightforward in Tatsuro’s composition is use of drone-camera shots.