Comedy, Drama, Films, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews

Jesus

Hiroshi Okuyama shows flair in his debut feature with a mini deity…

Debuting in the New Directors competition at the 2019 San Sebastian Film Festival, subsequently winning the New Directors award and a €50,000 prize, Hiroshi Okuyama’s odd comedy Jesus is an impressive inaugural feature.

Snapped up by Nikkatsu for distribution, and being the youngest ever recipient of the prize at the festival, this brief flirt with Christian themes is somewhat tonally gentle and doesn’t quite feature enough meat to pad it’s short (for a feature anyway) runtime out. The film follows 9-year-old only child Yura (Yura Sato) as his family move from Tokyo to Nakanojo, moving in with his grandma Fumi (Akko Tadano) after the death of his grandfather, and joining the local school which just so happens to practice Christianity.

Struggling to initially make friends, as Yura is rather shy and reserved, he also struggles to adapt to the religious devotion that his classmates show towards an unfamiliar religion. Polite teacher Mr Warita (Ippei Osako) tries to take him under his wing, and share the ‘joy’ of religion, however, none of this really has an effect on Yura until Jesus Christ himself appears as a doll-sized imaginary hyper friend. It’s easy to forgive Yura’s slow acceptance of this new friend, however, he keeps him lonely and they play together whilst Yura’s family adapt to living in a house and town where their grandfather died. In some ways, the arrival of Jesus is almost like a genie, as wishes to the mini deity for friends and money both come true, but in Old Testament-style they’re also viciously removed with consequences once Yura begins to take them for granted.

The narrative itself doesn’t lend much to be remembered, and the comedic elements are few and frequent, as the focus instead is more on Yura’s conformity to the concept of Christianity and his place in the new school. The few scenes that do feature Christ popping up in unexpected ways are some great elements of visual humour, however, a scant handful of laughs through a short 76-minute runtime aren’t forgivable enough to improve the film. The colour palette is largely drab, and the camera is relatively immobile, all of this combined with a lacking narrative that feels closer to a short and a slow unengaging tone makes Jesus hard to love.

Jesus screens as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020 at ICA London and various venues around the UK from 31st January. For more information on all films screening, visit the official website.

About the author

Andrew Daley
News Editor for easternKicks, and a Video Producer for Cycling Weekly based in London, with a passion for East Asian cinema, photography, and the outdoors. Read reviews/articles »
Read all posts by Andrew Daley

On this day One year ago

The Heirloom

A familiar 2005 Taiwanese take on the usual post-Ringu ghost themes from director Leste Chen... (more…) Read on

On this day Three years ago

My Father, The Bride

A charming family drama that will leave a smile on your face... (more…) Read on

On this day Five years ago

Asian Film News Weekly Round Up: 23rd to...

Feng Xiaogong's Youth pulled from US cinemas, Netflix announce new Asian titles, and J.J Abrams takes on Your Name... (more…) Read on

On this day Eight years ago

No Man’s Land

Ning Hao’s gleefully dark romp through the wild East... (more…) Read on

On this day 12 years ago

Confucius

Chow Yun-fat makes a welcome return to Chinese cinema in a brave attempt to bring life of the most famous philosopher to life... (more…) Read on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.