October 14, 2018
A group of wine aficionados start their own winery in this Japanese drama
By Rob Schwartz
This charming but somewhat melodramatic work focuses on the Japanese winemaking industry and a great love for the grape, which has taken hold in this country. The film, based on an award-winning nonfic- tion book of the same name by Kaori Kawai (published in 2010), follows the efforts of several people trying to make high quality wine in Japan. It tells much the same story as the book, with some dramatic license.
Okamura (Dai Watanabe), Shiroyama (Masayuki Deai), Kamimura (Yuka Takeshima), Takayama (Kenta Uchino) and Itoh (Satoshi Judai) meet regularly at a group for wine aficionados. After much denigrating of Japanese wine they encounter Kikyo- gahara Merlot, which is produced in Japan by Usuke Asai (Isao Hashizume). The group is so taken with the Merlot that they change their lives: Okamura dumps his job and rents land to raise grapes, enlisting the help of Itoh and other college chums; Shiroyama takes land at the farm owned by his wife’s family to start cultivating the same grapes; and Takayama fights off his parent’s objection and uses his family’s land to do the same. They all take their cues from Asai and implement his methods to try to make great wine.
Dai Watanabe is the son of celebrated Japanese actor Ken Watanabe and leads the ensemble cast who are quite talented. Despite being based on true events, however, the story is rendered overwrought and mawkish (a trend that plagues Japanese film today). This piece has all the tropes typical to Japanese films: deeply passionate youngsters determined to make it, a wise elder teaching them, a death and ultimate satisfaction. The cast works well together but the total seems less than the sum of the parts.
Usuke Boys: 102 minutes; in theatres starting October 20th.