Since the concept of jikka, one’s hometown, is extremely important in Japanese culture, it should come as no surprise that the country regularly churns out nostalgic movies about a person returning home. This is basically a whole genre of film on these shores. The stories are usually very pastoral and often set by the sea, though they can be more urban (see my last review, Gunjōiro no Tōrimichi).
Director Keisuke Toyoshima’s Umi no Futa, based on a Banana Yoshimoto novel, is a perfect embodiment of the type. Mari (Akiko Kikuchi) tires of the hectic big city and moves back to her quiet hometown by the sea in Shizuoka Prefecture. She’s set on opening a store selling shaved ice, or kakigōri (the saccharine image is perfect for this piece). Thus, this flick can hit all the obvious plot points of planning, constructing, and designing the shop (“putting your all” into a project related to returning home is a cornerstone of the genre), as well as focus on a traditional and cherished Japanese food.
As a conflict with Osamu (Yukichi Kobayashi), a friend from her youth, arises, Mari is forced to adapt. Nostalgic, syrupy sweet, and melodramatic, Umi no Futa is pretty much the epitome of the genre. Approach with caution. (84 min)