There’s a type of movie that you think you’ve seen a thousand times before, and liked it, but when you unwrap it it turns out to be a pleasantly different surprise. The Mohican Comes Home is a movie that you expect to be one thing, and in many ways it is, but there’s a gentleness and complete lack of conflict to it that is refreshing.
Punk singer Eikichi Tamura (Ryuhei Matsuda, The Raid 2: Berandal) travels back to his Hiroshima island home to tell his parents he’s marrying his pregnant girlfriend, Yuka (Atsuko Maeda, Initiation Love). When his father Osamu (Akira Emoto, Shin Godzilla) is diagnosed with lung cancer, the two decide to stay there with him and his wife, Haruko (Masako Motai, Always: Sunset on Third Street Free).
In a different film, one might have expected Eikichi to have been a delinquent who left home long ago after a falling out with his father. The reason for his prolonged absence is explained by laziness and a lack of funds rather than sheer contempt. Though the Tamuras are put out by Eikichi’s repeated failure to call them, they aren’t disappointed in him, and neither side feels like putting up a fight.
The Mohican Comes Home instead focuses on the small pleasures of life, both individually and collectively. Writer/director Shuichi Okita (Chef of South Polar) has an eye for detail, giving every character their passions: from Osamu’s fixation on seventies rockstar Eikichi Yazawa to Haruko’s love for the Hiroshima Carp, everyone on screen has tastes that define them and the world that they live in. Most important is that they not only can communicate in the shorthand particular to families that know each other, but they welcome Yuka in as if she had always been there. One might expect that a movie almost entirely lacking in conflict — even the cancer is fairly relaxed — would be boring, but The Mohican Comes Home is so wonderfully constructed that it never feels as if nothing has happened. Here, character is action, and its own reward.
Unsurprisingly, Okita’s ensemble are veterans who know their ways around family drama, displaying a degree of restraint that allows humour and pathos to emerge without wild exaggeration and gesticulation. There are several elevated set pieces in the film — and the climax is played in a bizarre and discordant tone that does not fit the rest of the piece — but they largely slot together in expert fashion.
The Mohican Comes Home is sweet and specific, providing few surprises to those familiar with this particular genre, but pulling them off so well that you can’t help but respect it. When you’ve got a small unit as well realised as this one, you want to spend as much time with it as possible: The Mohican Comes Home is a near perfect capsule of remote Japanese family life.
The Mohican Comes Home is screening in Australia as part of the Japanese Film Festival, which tours the country between October 14 and December 4, 2016.
Directed by: Shuichi Okita
Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Masako Motai and Akira Emoto.