SURVIVAL FAMILY, arriving in Chinese cinema this June, from the highly acclaimed Japanese director Shinobu Yaguchi (WATERBOYS 2001, SWING GIRLS 2004, WOOD JOB! 2014), idiosyncratically taps into the fecund ground of our epoch’s ambiguous stance towards global digitalization, envisages a cockamamie premise when our world is struck by an unforeseen power-out, which causes all electronic apparatuses mysteriously out of whack, then a road trip ebulliently pans out about how one ordinary urban Tokyo family wrestling to survive under such circumstances.
The prologue expeditiously encapsulates the quotidian discord within this nuclear family, crammed in a tenement apartment, an office-clerk father (Kohinata), a housewife mother (Fukatsu), a brace of disgruntled high-school daughter-and-son (Izumisawa and Aoi), which constitute a garden-variety version of the universal generational gap. Little they know, the next day, electricity and its paraphernalia will be completely shorn out of their life, they are wrong-footed like the rest of the populace, after the holding-pattern period lapses with no progress (Yaguchi is pervertedly cagey in neither logical explication nor promulgating authoritative voice), although, the whole family has a rare star-contemplating night when alternative becomes scarce, they decide to visit their maternal grandfather who lives near the seaside for fear of the impending shortage of food and water.
Their ensuing bicycle trek rather exceeds their widest expectation (although their decision of catching a plane is too much a foregone conclusion to enact in the first place), occasionally they merge with migrating elements on the highway, but mishaps befall incessantly, including chancing upon another family, who are brilliantly au fait with surviving skills, only counterpoising their ham-fisted misery to a farcical extent. The mythos of resorting to an agrarian facility pays amusing dividends as they must work for a farmer after unwittingly slaughtering one of his wandering pigs, touching moment segues after they sinks their teeth into the grunt work, they choose to continue their journey.
In the third act, precarious situations gain on the family, from a torrential river to a pack of ferocious dogs, bereavement is tantalized, but Yaguchi opts for a mawkish coincidence to tone down its effect lest the tonal shift, after all, the story's appealing congeniality is what clicks with the audience, plus, on the strength of the quartet’s strenuous effort (Kohinata basks in his unwonted leading role with cracking comic timing and downplayed exasperation), SURVIVAL FAMILY hits the mark by showing up an uplifting down-home parable through its arbitrary milieu, which one must hand it to Yaguchi for pulling it off this with tenacious sobriety, especially when a tangy self-involving ubiquity starts to tell.
companion pieces:Hirokazu Koreeda’s LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (2013, 8.2/10),Lee Sang-il’s RAGE (2016, 6.8/10).