The Woodsman & the Rain is as subtle as it is impressive; the film blends clever humour, bitter-sweet moments and a well-developed set of characters to create a gentle story that is both amusing and engaging throughout.
The Woodsman & the Rain is as subtle as
it is impressive; the film blends clever humour, bitter-sweet moments and a well-developed
set of characters to create a gentle story that is both amusing and engaging
The film is
essentially an offbeat re-telling of the classic ‘orphans in a storm’ scenario
– two troubled characters from entirely different backgrounds come together,
and the friendship that forms between them allows them both to escape their
individual ruts. In this way, the storyline is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (only with more humour and considerably less violence).
In the case of The Woodsman & the Rain, the catalyst for the film’s events
is a low-budget zombie movie being made in a small Japanese village. This
film-within-the-film brings together the young, angst-ridden director Koichi (Shun Oguri) and the irascible woodsman
of the film’s title – a local villager who becomes drawn in to helping the boy
and his crew make their film.
The zombie movie
acts as a reverse metaphor for the gradual transformation undergone by the main
characters – by playing a zombie onscreen, for instance, woodsman Katsuhiko (Koji Yakusho) is actually brought back
to life, jolted out of the catatonic existence he’s been living in since his
wife passed away.
between Katsuhiko and Koichi is what lies at the heart of The Woodsman &
the Rain; both actors are superb throughout, giving complex performances that
are complemented perfectly by the film’s minimalist (but incredibly effective)
dialogue and Shuichi Okita’s sharp direction (all of which adds to
the subtle vein of comedy running throughout the film).
style of the scrip and the direction also lend a quiet power to The Woodsman
& the Rain. In one scene, for instance, the extent of Koichi’s anxiety is
revealed by the simple act of him getting dressed in the morning. As he selects
a pair of socks form his washing line, he hears a voice whisper: ‘not the black
ones’. He pauses before taking off the socks and reaching for a blue pair, only
for the voice to whisper, ‘not the blue ones either’. Koichi stands undecided
before the washing line in his underwear, and we’re suddenly given an insight
into the reasons behind his subdued and indecisive nature.
development of both Koichi and Katsuhiko is extremely well handled in the
script, and it’s one of the things that makes the film so watchable throughout.
Their father-son style relationship (which eventually allows the woodsman to
re-connect with his own son) is as moving as it is genuinely hilarious in
parts. And while the film might not be completely perfect – Katsuhiko’s
relationship with his son may be intriguing but it doesn’t get much
screen-time, for instance – it is consistently entertaining. The Woodsman &
the Rain is powerful, offbeat and – like the aftermath of the downpours that
bookend the film – a welcome breath of fresh air.