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TIFF 2020 Review: Under the Open Sky

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Released after a serving 13-year prison sentence for murder, Mikami (Koji Yakusho) attempts to leave his Yakuza past behind.

Even though lacking remorse for killing a fellow gang member, Mikami is finally free after spending 13 years behind bars; what he really desires is to find his mother who abandoned him at an orphanage so a television show that profiles inmates is approached.  The trouble is that the producer is more interested in covering whether Mikami is going to resort back to a life of crime rather than helping him undercover his parentage.   Integration into society for the ex-convict is complicated by bureaucracy and apathy.

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It is an interesting choice for filmmaker Miwa Nishikawa to have the two stories of Mikami dealing with his present-day struggles and the director researching his past; the approach allows for exposition to be incorporated into the storyline without slowing down the plot.  Mikami has a quick temper and high blood pressure with the two not mixing well together.  The scene with the young female doctor is touching and provides a note of optimism.  Composer Masaki Hayashi is certainly having some fun with the score which at times has an almost whimsical feel.  Koji Yakusho is a sympathetic character at a lost to understand the world and to find a place for himself.  There is a reflective quality to the editing which favours long cuts.  Unfortunately, Nishikawa is unable to avoid delving into melodrama which undercuts the authentic performance of Yakusho.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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