Directed by: Yutaka Yamazaki
Starring: Makiko Watanabe (Hiroko), Sakura Ando (Mina)
Country: Japan; Effed Up Asian Cinema
Language: Japanese; Effed Up Japanese Movies
Genres: Siblings-Family, Dolls
Plot – Spoilers:
A lonely middle-aged woman from a small town, Hiroko, works at a clothing store in the big city. She is friendly with her coworkers who are also from small towns and nostalgic about the families they left behind, but who drown that feeling with social dos, something Hiroko politely avoids.
Hiroko’s loneliness passes gently before our eyes through extended shots of her cooking, dining alone and sewing. But she’s got some company in her closet. An inflatable with just the torso intact. Hiroko seems to enjoy the ritual of blowing and bringing Torso to life every time she craves his company. Later she will deflate him and store him away neatly until next time. The first time you see her smiling properly is when she’s frolicking alone with Torso on a lonely beach.
Hiroko’s younger sister, Mina, with whom she shares a mother, drops by and eventually stays with her for a while. Mina is a lot more relaxed than her stiff older sister and their complex past slowly unravels, including details on another person they share.
Thoughts on the ending – Massive Spoilers:
A cynical view.
Mina has always wanted what Hiroko had, starting with little things like a pen, her clothes, later moving on to more significant things like her boyfriend.
For Hiroko, there’s a history of resentment to her younger sister who shared the easier relationship with their mother who not only preferred Mina, but also saw in Hiroko all the negative traits of the husband that had left. There is also a strong suggestion of abuse from her stepfather and Hiroko might also wonder why she went through something that Mina was spared.
It’s suggested that Hiroko had a child with Jiro that she chose to abort in favor of a career and possibly also because they were no longer a couple. So when Hiroko advises Mina to not abandon her career and move back home, maybe all she’s doing is not wanting Mina to have something she now regrets not having followed through with. Her dropping by Jiro’s place might be simple big-sister guilt, or something more sinister – maybe, from her own personal experience, she knows Jiro will be able to convince Mina to drop the baby.
As for Mina, she isn’t above trying out Hiroko’s treasured Torso. Towards the end, she leaves Mr Torso in plain view for Hiroko to find – a little signal that she had him too. But then she takes off the Hiroko dress she always craved – perhaps she finally is free of the lust she’s always felt for her sister’s stuff having understood that things have switched and it is her sister who now wants what she has.
When Hiroko realizes Torso’s unwitting infidelity, it is the final act of defilement for her – her sister’s hands on him. After mourning this for a while, she finally kills him and decides to move on and be more open to relationships.
The warm fuzzy view.
So in a way, both sisters in the end are freed from the things that had taken over their lives.