A simple story

Capturing Dad’ will captivate' you with its charm.

CAPTURING DAD Written and directed by Ryota Nakano (photo credit: Courtesy)
CAPTURING DAD Written and directed by Ryota Nakano
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Written and directed by Ryota Nakano Hebrew title: Litfos et Aba With Makiko Watanabe, Erisa Yanagi, Nanoka Matsubara Running time: 74 minutes In Japanese.
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Capturing Dad, the story of two Tokyo sisters who travel to the countryside to visit their dying, estranged father, is a lyrical and moving comedydrama.
It transcends the familiarity of its plot with the freshness of its setting and the grace of director Ryota Nakano’s approach.
The story is simple. Koharu (Nanoka Matsubara) is a dreamy high school student who spends afternoons dozing by the river and is obsessive about her love for tuna sushi. She doesn’t have much to do with her older sister, Hazuki (Erisa Yanagi), a bar girl. The two live in a cramped apartment with their tough mother, Sawa (Makiko Watanabe), who has raised them alone ever since their father walked out 14 years before.
When the mother hears from the father’s family that he is dying, she orders her daughters to go to their father’s village and visit him. Her daughters, who have had no contact with their father in more than a decade, are reluctant to make the journey. When their mother gives them a camera she has just bought so they can capture their father’s dying face, an image she says will make her laugh, they are understandably intimidated. While they resent their father for leaving, they still have vague but good childhood memories of him and don’t share the hatred that is still so alive and fresh for their mother. But in this house, the mother’s word is law, and so they set off on a train journey.
Things don’t go quite as planned, and they confront their father’s family with mixed emotions. Their uncle welcomes them, while the younger half-brother they have never met – or heard of – is a quiet, lonely kid who is delighted to get to know them. Others in the family think they have come just to get a share of their father’s inheritance.
They are confused. Should they remain loyal to their mother and take a photo of their father in his most vulnerable moment? Should they try to grab some of their father’s estate – an idea that had never occurred to them until they are accused of it.
This slender plot is really an excuse to explore family dynamics, especially the relationship between the two sisters and their mother. This road trip is a rare time that the sisters get to spend time together without their mother’s domineering presence. As the day unfolds and the events they confront veer from the comic to the tragic, the sisters take a long look at each other and at themselves. As clichéd as that may sound, director Ryota Nakano is able to make it seem new.
Capturing Dad – which I suspect has a Japanese title that sounds better – also centers around the dynamics of a fatherless family. The mother has clearly struggled financially to give her daughters the best life she can; but it hasn’t been easy, and the challenges with which she has struggled have taken their toll. At first she is so strong and angry that she seems almost like a witch, but later as she is shown on her own and with a lover, her vulnerability emerges. Her daughters hate her, but deep down they understand her and love her, and the film is at its strongest as these conflicting emotions rise to the surface.
The strong performances by the three principal actresses make the film.
Makiko Watanabe, an incredibly gorgeous 45-year-old actress who is convincing as a woman who doesn’t recognize her own beauty, gives a pitch-perfect depiction of the mother who is both incredibly tough and achingly loving. The two actresses playing her daughters – Nanoka Matsubara and Erisa Yanagi – are lovely and confident in their first starring roles.
While some of the film is a comedy of manners that pokes fun at traditional Japanese reserve, this is truly a universal story, one that audiences all over the world will be able to relate to with pleasure.