Kei Chika-ura returns to the Festival with this smartly observed, beautifully shot story about the reunion of a long-estranged father and his son amid lost memories and scattered fragments of lives.
Great Absence, the latest by emerging Japanese filmmaker and TIFF alumnus Kei Chika-ura, is a touching journey through lost memories and scattered fragments of lives towards the reconciliation of a relationship between a father with dementia and his long-estranged son.
At a certain point in life we often have to deal with a past that was thought to be forgotten, lost forever, and which instead resurfaces, with all the emotional awkwardness generated by unwanted absences, memory lapses, and the missing pieces of the puzzle of our existence.
It is at that precise moment that Takashi (Mirai Moriyama) finds himself when he receives an unexpected phone call from a police station in northern Kyushu. Yohji, the father who left his family 20 years ago and with whom he has barely kept in touch, has caused quite a stir. But when Takashi arrives at his father's house he discovers that there is more. Naomi, his father’s second wife, is missing and may have committed suicide.
Partly based on Chika-ura’s personal experience and shot on pristine 35mm, Great Absence smoothly integrates flashbacks from the past lives of Takashi and Yohji with the present drama of the old man grappling with dementia and the mystery of Naomi’s disappearance, in an intriguing narrative structure that emphasizes Chika-ura’s solid visual storytelling and strong performances from an outstanding cast. Tatsuya Fuji, as Yohji, is a legendary Japanese actor who has worked with Nagisa Ōshima, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Takeshi Kitano.
With his smart sophomore feature, Chika-ura confirms his rising reputation as a filmmaker who will soon join the ranks of the next generation of Japanese masters.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes