Until The Lights Come Back (Daiteiden no Yoru ni, 2005)
Toyokawa Etsushi, Usui Ken, Harada Tomoyo, Kikkawa Koji
Dir. Minamoto Takashi

Christmas Eve…  A former work comrade of mine now residing in Osaka said that in Japan the season is for couples.  The season of love, in spite of greedy ways to exploit the notion for crass marketing purposes.  This was magnified even more when her husband was unable to have dinner with her on the Eve due to mass salaryman duties.  What’s more, nobody in Japan sells “real” Christmas trees!  Bah!

With that in mind and a pot of Peets Holiday Blend coffee, I put this DVD in my old all-region Pioneer.  Just something I’d downloaded months ago, seemingly on a whim (what else is the internet but a place to leech stuff and think later).  The movie concept also piqued my interest: an ensemble cast of familiar faces, with no obvious lead character.

The story: a blackout in Tokyo causes a number of people to confront ghosts from the past and demons of the present.  Secrets are unlocked. A torrent of emotional catharsis.  Lives are changed forever.  You never thought so much sadness and tragedy could surface in the dark but, alas, shit happens during the holiday season.

Yet the story delivered the goods for me.  A number of disparate souls practically and literally wandering in the darkness, forced to deal with emotional scars (some freshly created), and digging deeper than expected.  There are a lot of different threads to consume but the pacing of each path is not difficult to weave through and the editing of each tale is engaging and lucid.

What surprised me most of all was the way all these people, coming from every which way, managed to connect with one another, as the narrative moved forward.  I had in mind a “Love, Actually” stage where lives ran in parallel.  But this story weaves all the people together, with an exception or two, and I thought it worked well despite the potential for cheesiness.  There are a dozen people in the movie, not one given obvious weight over the other in terms of importance and screen time.  There is also potential for cliche and dopiness but I attached myself to these characters and the different ways they deal with shock and betrayal and loss.  And the power of love.

The older I get, the more I prefer stories about people I care about, who I’d like to meet in “real life” even.  This movie offered a whole bunch of them, young and old, famous and not-so-well-known.  I plan to make a copy for my disappointed friend and hope she’ll give it a lookee the next time she feels a little emotional chill in the house.

***1/2 (out of ****).

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