Millennials and the possible Japanese counterpart “Yutori Generation” [used describe a children brought up and educated in a non-pressure system in response to the stress and overburden placed on them to achieve] have been oft maligned by their elders for poor work attitudes, a sense of entitlement, and a narcissistic streak. Whoever is to blame and the solutions which are needed are a discussion for some other blog, but key to both is how said generation views itself and filmmakers in their 20s are beginning to take a look at who they are and where they are going.
Eriko, Pretended from writer/director Fujimura Akiyo a graduate of Meiji Gakuin University and the New Cinema Workshop film school, looks to be a standout entry in this sphere primarily for its set up and development.
Ten years ago, Eriko left her provincial town and headed for Tokyo in pursuit of her dream of being an actress, though has nothing to show for it except a bit part in a commercial beneath a rabbit costume. Nevertheless, she tells people back home she is doing quite well. When her older sister suddenly dies in an accident, Eriko returns to her hometown for the funeral and after a stilted eulogy, is subject to her relative’s suspicions she isn’t all she has claimed to be. In response, and on impulse, Eriko declares she will take care of her 10-year-old nephew, Kazuma, which in turn leads to her offering to take over her sister’s job as a ‘nakiya’-a professional mourner-for-hire.
And so begins the pretender’s adventure in pretending. This is a fascinating framework that could work in various genres, but the fact Fujimura utilizes it as a way to explore the aforementioned “younger” generations’ convictions and insecurities is inspired. Furthermore, she does not play Eriko’s story for sentimentality, rather there is genuine charm and some unexpected lessons to be learned by heroine and audience alike as the Japan Times’ Mark Schilling points out: “[…] And when she tries to fake tears at a funeral, [her sister’s former boss] reproves her: ‘We are here to make others feel the presence of the deceased,’ she says. ‘If you just pretend, you can’t do that.’ Eriko’s task, we see, is to become a genuine person, not a poseur.” And there’s the rub…to paraphrase Shakespeare.
Eriko, Pretended looks to be a solid first feature-length outing by Fujimura following her early short films. Having shot this movie in 2016, up next for the 28-year-old is a berth in the Kore-eda Hirokazu executive produced Ten Years Japan, a spinoff of 2015’s Hong Kong indie hit Ten Years, also being produced by Free Stone Productions and Eiko Mizuno-Gray and Jason Gray’s Loaded Films. Another original feature-length by this up-and–coming director is hopefully also not far off.