It’s often said a filmmaker’s second work tends to be their most personal. For Ninomiya Ryutaro, the writer, director, editor, and star of his sophomore effort Sweating the Small Stuff this could literally be the case. Reportedly based on true events, and apparently shot in the locations those events happened, is the story of the protagonist (also named Ninomiya Ryutaro) spinning his wheels through a nihilistic life his very own?
Auto mechanic Ryutaro, 27 years old, lives a fairly simple life. He seems confident, at least his swagger communicates as much, but spends much of his time reading books and drinking beers with friends. Something seems to be holding him back. One day, he receives a phone call from Yusuke, his childhood friend whose mother, Ryuko, is dying from Hepatitis C. Despite knowing for a while that Ryuko was sick, Ryutaro hasn’t visited her. And then he finally decides to go.
Japanese independent cinema is populated with similar tales of characters aimlessly drifting through life but Ninomya’s movie may be able to distinguish itself from the crowd. Key to this is deciphering the title. The original Japanese title Edaha no Koto is an expression describing incidental or trifling details. Likewise, the English title is an expression for becoming too concerned with the minutiae of life thus affecting perceptions of and decisions about what is more important or potentially more cathardic. Both hint at Ninomya’s character allowing himself to be distracted or weighed down by something unspoken. What this is and what he ultimately decides to do about it is the where his movie’s potential truly lies.
Sweating the Small Stuff played in-competition at the Locarno and has also been screened at the Vancouver, Busan, and Rotterdam international film festivals to name a few. Currently, Ninomiya is working on a new project through the Enbu Seminar Cinema Project which develops movies as part of a series of workshops bringing together actors and creators to realize the project through to completion.