Fantasia 2022: Convenience Story (Japan, 2022)

The Gutter’s own Carol is reporting back from the Fantasia International Film Festival with a review of Satoshi Miki’s Convenience Story (Japan, 2022):

Kato (Narita Ryo) is a screenwriter. You might not have heard of his movies, but he’s reasonably successful. He makes a living, but feels professionally unappreciated. He shares an apartment with his girlfriend, the actress Zigzag (Yuki Katayama), but Zigzag feels unappreciated by Kato. It’s hard to say if Kato even likes her. In fact, it looks like this relationship is a product of Kato’s inertia. I mean I get why he doesn’t like Zigzag, but he stays with her anyway. What I’m saying is that Kato is kind of a schmoe.

Zigzag has a big audition and asks Kato to watch Cerberus, her dog, while she’s out. Kato doesn’t want to because he has his own meeting with the fantastically coiffed producer Kunikada (Eri Fuse) and her assistant producer, who is interested in Kato. When he gets home Cerberus is hungry and Kato tries hard not to go out again, but finally goes to get a jar of dog food from a nearby convenience store. So begins Kato’s journey into convenience store purgatory and the discovery of another convenience store in rural fields outside Tokyo. At that Lisow Mart, he meets Keiko (Atsuko Maeda), a cashier who works at the store with her husband, Nagumo (Seiji Rokkaku). Stranded, Kato takes Nagumo and Keiko up on their offer to stay with them until they find his rental truck.

Convenience stores, especially at night, are liminal spaces. They feel timeless, eternal, and between worlds. Convenience Story captures and builds on that feeling. Co-written by the film’s director Satoshi Miki and Japan Times‘ film critic Mark Schilling, Convenience Story is comedic, but it also has some of the feel of Southern Gothic and neo-noir stories. Convenience Story is also a gorgeous film. Haruyuki Takada’s cinematography and the film’s thoughtful, color-saturated lighting are fantastic and I loved looking at it. The costuming and hair–and all the set dressing details–were delightful. All the performances were good, though I wish there had been reason for even more Eri Fuse. And Narita Ryo played a frustratingly believable schmoe. Convenience Story is a good movie and a well-crafted one. At the same time, I wish certain of the symbolic Easter eggs hadn’t been included. The flm did not need the added references, symbols or even a certain narrative twist at the end. Why add more when there is  already enough with Convenience Story’s unique, original material?

Read more of the Gutter’s own Carol on Convenience Story here.

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