3.5 stars (out of 4)
Released 2015 (in Japan)
On August 9, 1945, Nobuko’s son Koji perished when the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki. On the third anniversary of the tragedy, Nobuko resigns herself to the fact that he is really gone and that she should move on with her life. She advises Koji’s girlfriend Machiko to do the same. That night, Koji starts appearing to his mother as a ghost. They talk and reminisce about the past. Meanwhile, we follow Nobuko’s interactions with the other people in her life, including Machiko.
Nagasaki – Memories of My Son is a very personal, simple story that perfectly captures and conveys the thoughts and emotions of its characters. It is profoundly sad, but the whole thing is not just a downer, either. There are moments of levity and hopefulness too.
In at least one instance, the characters marvel at how incredible America was, creating impressive things like Hollywood movies as well as nuclear weapons. Lines like that reflect the soft humour and intrinsic sadness of the film.
I really appreciated that this isn’t the kind of movie that beats you over the head with its melodrama. The pacing is such that the viewer doesn’t actually get a chance to dwell on any one idea or emotion for too long.
After all, 3 years had passed, and if anything, Nobuko was accepting of her lot in life; she held no particular resentment or bitterness about her loss. But the sadness that she kept inside her heart, the unspoken mourning over wasted hopes and dreams, that hit me straight in the gut.
This is a truly excellent, powerful film that perfectly accomplishes what it sets out to do. I’m glad I got to experience it. It really affected me. However, it was so brutally, emotionally draining that I don’t think I could ever watch it again.