Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jmovie review: A Lone Scalpel/Koukou no Mes

Saw this movie at the Japanese Film Festival. The movie I really wanted to see was Matsu Takako's revenge movie Confessions but I forgot all about it as I was too focused on finishing Jeanne D'Arc that weekend. Realised that I had missed most of the festival on Monday but the last movie had Tsutsumi Shinichi (Suspect X) and Natsukawa Yui (KDO) so it was a no brainer to go and watch.

Set in the 80s, Natsukawa Yui plays Nakamura Namiko, a single mom of a boy and a nurse in a rural hospital. She is tired of her work because the surgeons are incompetent and know that they can easily offer the excuse that rural hospitals are ill equipped compared to city hospitals. The rural doctors are only interested in keeping a low mortality rate so that they can get promoted and if they run into trouble, they just transfer the patient to a big hospital. It is with this backdrop that Toma sensei (Tsutsumi Shinichi) an excellent surgeon comes to the hospital and starts changing the lives of those around him, especially Nakamura.

Probably the most striking thing for me in this movie is the way the director films the operations. Its not like Iryu where is cool and magical or like most movie/dramas where its edited to be brief so as not to bore the audience. In A Long Scalpel, we are taken through the steps and like Toma says, surgery is like knitting. Slowly and laboriously cutting and sewing. It actually makes surgery look like hard work. Its not about how fast one can stitch or come up with some clever way to solve a complication. Surgery in A Lone Scalpel is like slowly putting one brick on top of another to create a wall except that major concentration is required. There are no major complications during surgery like in Iryu but its so compelling to watch because I could feel how on edge the characters were and as Toma meticulously went on with his work.

The first half basically deals with the effects of Toma's arrival, his personality and Nakamura's personal life. Its fun to watch Toma because he is this essentric and socially awkward, does his work well and likes to listen to Enka while operating. Nakamura sees him as more than a saviour but puts her passion into being the best nurse she can be. The second half gets into the meat of the story where an opportunity arises for Toma to do a liver transplant from a brain dead patient. Problem is, Japan had not recognised that brain dead patients are essentially dead and it was illegal to shut down life support.

The acting in this movie is of course awesome. Natsukawa Yui is the one actress who can pull off the simultaneous crying/pissed off/sad look that just tugs at your heartstrings. If there is one complaint from me is that, Nakamura should have been the center of the story. Fair enough that we needed to see things from Toma's point of view in order to explain some things but it feels like there are big holes in Nakamura's character arc. The movie would have been better served with her as the emotional anchor for the audience throughout the movie and not just in the beginning and end. Toma is more of an enigma and all scenes should have led back to Nakamura and her reactions/thoughts.

A Lone Scalpel is a movie that is not nearly as good as the sum of its parts but the parts are really awesome. From the realistic surgeries, the very funny mayor, to Toma being the source of humour with his social ineptitude to Nakumara's doe eyed staring at Toma.  Not quite must watch but definitely worth your time.


Chuks said...

It looks interesting. I'll be sure to check it out. Thanks. :)
I've just read the original novel of Confession, and it was pretty interesting. I also heard good review from my friend who watched it, so I'm looking forward to it.

Akiramike said...

I'm spewing I missed Confessions. With jmovies, there is no guarantee anything will get subbed.