Yuya Ishii returns with his latest feature about a mother and son who struggle desperately to survive within a polarized society, under the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A Madder Red” is written and directed by Yuya Ishii, winner of Best Director at the Asian Film Awards for “The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue” (2017), who is highly regarded as one of Asia’s foremost filmmakers. He first made his name with a string of hits including “Sawako Decides” (2010), which was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival’s prestigious Forum category, and “The Great Passage” (13), which was chosen as Japan’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. In recent years, he has made further inroads into international filmmaking with “All the Things We Never Said” (2020), made as part of the Shanghai International Film Festival’s B2B (Back to Basics) project, and “The Asian Angel” (2020), shot entirely on location in South Korea with Korean cast and crew members. In “A Madder Red,” he takes on the difficult subject of Japan’s rigidly stratified society, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
A powerful cast of familiar and new faces
Protagonist Ryoko is played by Machiko Ono, one of Japan’s most talented and accomplished actresses, who made her screen debut in Naomi Kawase’s Cannes Camera d’Or-winning “Suzaku” (97) and went on to appear in a succession of successful works including “Bali Big Brother” (2015) and “The Miracles of the Namiya General Store” (2017).
Other consummate veterans fill out the supporting cast. The inimitable Joe Odagiri, known for his memorable performances in “Sway” (2006) and “Over the Fence” (2016), takes the role of Ryoko’s late husband, while the manager of the sex shop where Ryoko works is portrayed by Masatoshi Nagase, a charismatic and prolific performer whose recent credits include Naomi Kawase’s “Radiance” (2017).
Other key characters are brought to life by promising newcomers: Iori Wada of “Mixed Doubles” (2017) plays Ryoko’s son Junpei, and Yuki Katayama, who left an indelible impression in “My Name is Yours” (2020) and “In Those Days” (2021), features as Ryoko’s co-worker.
A mother who has accepted every indignity with a smile finally allows herself to scream.
Ryoko is a widow who lost her husband in a fatal road accident caused by an elite bureaucrat seven years ago. She now lives with her son Junpei in a public housing complex where rent is a relatively inexpensive 27,000 yen a month. As well as a part-time job at a flower shop, she also works at a sex parlor, but the cost of living is high due to numerous outgoings such as her father-in-law’s nursing home fees, and making ends meet is a constant struggle.
The bureaucrat’s family still hasn’t apologized for the accident, but Ryoko keeps her anger bottled up inside, telling Junpei with a smile: “Let’s get through this.”
One day, Ryoko runs into her old junior high classmate Kumaki and falls in love. She believes him when he says he’ll take care of her, and quits the sex parlor.
Meanwhile, Ryoko’s former colleague Kei, who Junpei has feelings for, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. To make matters worse, Ryoko learns that Kumaki actually has a wife and child, and only sees her as a diversion. This series of injustices and tragedies ultimately ignites Ryoko’s rage...
■ 11th Beijing International Film Festival (2021)
■ 22nd Nippon Connection Film Festival (2022)
- Nippon Cinema
■ 24th Taipei Film Festival (2022)
- Machiko Ono (尾野真千子), Iori Wada (和田庵), Yuki Katayama (片山友希)
Joe Odagiri (オダギリジョー), Masatoshi Nagase (永瀬正敏)
- Written and Directed
- Yuya Ishii (石井裕也)
- Japan release
- May 21, 2021
- 144 min.
- Technical Specs
- Color / 1:2.35 / Digital / 5.1ch