Talk about the stars aligning for a blockbuster Canadian-Japanese production. Director Yuya Ishii has been a rising commercial talent in Japan since his 2010 effort Sawako Decides, which premiered at the Pia Film Festival and went on to screen at the prestigious fests of Berlin, Hong Kong, New York and Vancouver, among others. It picked up the Best Film Prize at the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal.
His 2013 drama, The Great Passage, was selected as Japan’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Mix that with huge Japanese stars like Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kazuya Kamenashi, Ryo Katsuji, Yusuke Kamiji and Aoi Miyazaki (among many others) and you have a local film event. The flick premiered at the Vancouver Film Fest to, predictably, great fanfare and star-worship.
The story concerns residents of a Japanese immigrant community in Vancouver who start a baseball team and persevere despite harsh conditions, racism and poverty. While there’s plenty to keep the viewer engaged, the effort is too heavy on the melodrama. Do you enjoy heavy strings to let you know what you’re supposed to be feeling? (132 min)