Director Yuki Tanada Interview Review- "Round Trip Heart" closes the Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival

On December 4, 2016, the film “Round Trip Heart”, shown at The Wilmette Theater, 1122 Central Avenue, Wilmette, closed The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival, which provided months worth of and a variety of movie experiences. 12 award-winning films were shown, including 9 Chicago premieres, and revealing informative question and answer sessions were conducted with the visiting directors.  This reviewer had the opportunity to screen the final film and interview the script adaptor/director, Yuki Tanada. A synopsis of the movie and an interview summary is provided below.

Yuki Oshima in "Round Trip Heart"

“Round Trip Heart” or “Romance”, as it’s titled in Japan, 2015, stars Yuko Oshima (formerly of the all-girl band AKB48) and Koji Ookura, in a deceptively simple storyline. She works on the well known ‘Romancecar” train as a waitress.  He is the much-older stranger who steals a Bento box from her cart. She catches and accuses him, fresh from receiving an alarming and ambiguous letter from her long-lost mother. He is, in reality, a failed movie producer. While bringing him before the train authorities, he bolts. She gives chase, they both miss the train, and he ultimately reads the letter. He persuades her to set off on a journey to look for mom and retrace the last family vacation the broken family had.

 In the course of the convoluted driving trip, they snipe at each other, tell each other the stories of their past losses- his wife and daughter have likewise deserted him- and become allies of sorts. Nothing about the relationship is predictable. There is not an instantly developing fondness or romance. There is- thankfully- no May/December sex. They do not become lifelong sworn buddies.

The Cast of "Round Trip Heart"

  What does happen is a tolerant and bemused détente ensues between two very different human beings which, however, allows each of them to share in the process of explicating the past while creating new memories and getting some distance from their lives. Interestingly, this is much the same process that takes place with a therapist except only the patient is supposed to reveal their past, and there is no actual facilitating travel. Without revealing any “spoiler” facts, there is a surprise betokening future happiness for one of the participants, while the other is enabled to go on, heartened and hopeful.

 As one would expect, Oshima, as a fledgling actress, has a much more limited range than Ookura, who is by turns hilarious, demanding, empathetic and calling forth sympathy. The cinematography is lovely, as is the scenery. The pacing and timing are good. It’s a well-done, critically referred to as  “quiet” movie, but it holds the viewer’s interest, is never strained and does not result in a forced happy ending, as it would in the hands of much of Hollywood.

 Yuki Tanada is a not a newcomer to movie making; her filmography demonstrates a steadily developing body of competent work in Japan. She’s a courteous woman, sparing with her words, but psychologically intuitive and gracious in her answers. Together we analyzed the film.

 “One of the advantages of low budget films is that anyone can make one”, said Tanada, perhaps disingenuously; she has been able to bring a number of films to fruition, that is certain.

From "Round Trip Heart", directed by Yuki Tanada

The story upon which the film was based was written by Kosuke Mukai and Yuki Tanada then  wrote the script from the story. She had been approached by the production company and asked to put Oshima into the film because she was “retiring” from her pop music group; both Tanada and the producer selected the other actors. In this film, Tanada stated, she “Wanted to depict two people leading completely different lives, lives with no similarities” at first glance. Yet, both of these individuals had lost important family members, both had unsuccessful careers, and both were “Not very good at living their lives”.

 I point out that the two people were very kind to each other, and Tanada agreed that dynamic “Is part of the meaning of this movie”. She added, “The reason they can be kind to each other is because they have nothing invested in the other”. While the film may seem to have a quiet message, she agreed, “What speaks loudly is the development of the individuals”- the journey they take “Is a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery”.

 When I asked this thoughtful auteur what she hoped audiences would take away from this film, she replied, “In the end, there is no easy solution to our problems but by interacting with others, one may find a new way of looking at things”.

She hopes that moviegoers will leave the theater with “A smile and a new outlook”. I did- the film is recommended.

Poster from "Round Trip Heart"


All photos and images from “Round Trip Heart” courtesy of The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival




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