Mirai (Japan, 2018) [Reel Asian 2018]
Mirai finds Mamoru Hosoda recreating the dimensional experiments in content, as seen in his The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), and in form, like in Wolf Children (2012), but intimately takes place in a single setting. But this film is no downgrade. Rather, the choice of form and content pushes the technique both to its conceptual and theoretical limits.
The film is less focused on the titular Mirai (Haru Kuroki) and instead depends heavily on the choices made by her older brother, Kun (Moka Kamishiraishi). Kun’s initial frustration over gaining his parents’ attention from the new-born Mirai opens a portal on their garden which can let him connect with his dog, Yukko, in human form. Being concerned with the way Kun treats his own family, Mirai from the future arrives at the same portal, making him do chores to mend their relationship in the future. In all of the encounters with either the future or humanized entities, it is through Kun that we can see the toll, since in the present, he is the one who remembers and is conscious of the things that they’ve been doing.
Mirai seemingly resolves through its apparent content the sources of sibling rivalries. It does so by making taking care of a younger brother or sister appear as attractive as it can. Kun’s family’s house does not seem to run out of sunshine even when it rains. There’s very little change in color palettes in the film, unlike in Wolf Children when the teenage years part of the story arc was presented. Hosoda takes a balanced approach to presenting even the negative aspects of living with a sibling.
As an experiment in time, Hosoda tries to abstract the future in two ways: first, as the Mirai character from the future, second as Mirai herself being referred to as the future. The literal translation of the film’s Japanese title, Mirai no Mirai, refers to the character who comes from the future. But what does it say about Mirai herself? An interesting thought comes if you place Mirai in the recent historical context of Japan with regards to their concern of declining birthrate. The positive impression of having a sibling becomes a campaign for the younger ones to look into this kind of bright paletted future. The future Mirai communicating with Kun as a present child becomes an optimistic invitation to reconsider having a child in the future.
The experiment in form, however, seem to contrast this invitation. There are sequences in the wherein motion from point A to point B is not depicted through the usual dolly follow-through or cuts. Instead, a frame pan exposes motion in the formerly unseen frame the next actions of the characters. The decision to pan towards the next action makes it appear as if whoever is looking does not want to blink and would want to see the whole motion of every subject. It is in these instances where the film becomes less intimate. The distance created by the pan seem to reflect a kind of anxiety since the characters in the frame (Kun, the future Mirai and the human Yukko) come from different dimensions. In this sense, the present’s eye is not trying to get the future’s intrusion out of its sight as it might only cause trouble to its current inner peace.
Might this be the case of the same anxiety of the younger generation towards the future, as shown by contemporary Japanese films involving the youth? Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q (2001) showed from the subjective shots early into the film a dialogue between the father and the daughter in a motel room talking about the future of Japan while Daihachi Yoshida’s The Kirishima Thing (2012) portrayed a school placed into chaos for not resolving each character’s conflict with a non-visible person,who may or may not step into an assured future. Mirai’s form follow the similar thread of depicting the youth’s anxiety in a time out of joint.
But Mirai’s approach is less cynical and less pessimistic than the aforementioned films. As mentioned, it is inviting and tries to make its prescribed future as attractive as possible. If anything, its sincerity can be observed in its consistency in form, specifically, in its color tones. In its content, it does not take anything for granted. Kun’s tantrums, specially the last one relating to the choice of color of his shorts, are depicted with great care and sensitivity. The seemingly petty concerns of Kun as the present time affects the future, which is just existing with him at the same time, on the person of his younger sister. The film’s attitude towards its subject matter does not come with any irony, but is an honest plea to look into the window of the world it frames.
Mirai is showing on November 10 at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.