Ai no Chīsana Rekishi

Indie film by talented director Ryutaro Nakagawa

Readers of this column know I love introducing indie Japanese films that wouldn’t otherwise get a lot of press. Tokyo New Cinema Inc., making quality feature films by young directors on tiny budgets, is a joy for me to write about.

One of the most prominent filmmakers in the alliance is 24-year-old Ryutaro Nakagawa, who’s already made a number of shorts and three feature films. Ai no Chīsana Rekishi screened at the 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival, and now gets its theatrical debut. Nakagawa once again employs the narrative of disparate characters moving through life, but this time, their stories merge.

Natsuki (Eriko Nakamura) runs a bento shop, and is estranged from her abusive and alcoholic father. Small-time yakuza punk Natsuo (Takashi Okito) changes his ways after someone he’s shaking down kills himself. He finds his drug-addicted, sex-working sister Asuka (Manami Takahashi), and implores her to straighten up her life.

The two stories run parallel with deep insight into the pain and division trauma causes. The auteur has a fine attention to detail, and a window into the characters’ emotional states. Nakagawa may be the finest young director in Japan. English title: August in Tokyo. (81 min)

Opens May 9 at Eurospace in Shibuya.