Review: Zero Focus (2009)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

If I were to make a film about my life right now, ‘Zero Focus’ would be a most appropriate title. But no, the Japanese film Zero Focus is not about some dude who is overworked, underpaid, struggling to juggle multiple commitments, while trying to watch as many good films as possible, all resulting in chronic sleep deprivation and therefore a pathologically shortened attention span. Instead, it is a suspense mystery drama.

The main character is Teiko (Ryoko Hirosue), a newly married beautiful young woman who has found happiness in her life. This turns out to be short-lived, however, as her husband fails to return after leaving home for work in another city. So Teiko goes on a journey to find her husband, and in doing so learns a lot that she did not know about him…

Zero Focus wasn’t really what I expected. Having read the synopsis and seen the keywords ‘suspense’ and ‘mystery’, I was expecting a movie that has an intricate web of plot twists culminating in a climax with a final revelation that would just blow me away. Zero Focus is not like that. Very early on in the film, viewers get to find out what happens to Teiko’s disappeared husband and not before long, it becomes obvious who is responsible for his disappearance. So if you watch this film expecting an exciting whodunit thriller, you may be disappointed.

As a drama, however, this film is certainly a success, thanks to the great performances by all three of the lead actresses – Ryoko Hirosue, Miki Nakatani (Memories of Matsuko – JFF 2008) and Tae Kimura (All Around Us – JFF 2009). Lead actress Ryoko Hirosue is on a hot streak at the moment. Following the success of the Oscar-winning Departures, she has starred in a number of major productions. Just look at how many films showing at this year’s Japanese Film Festival have her starring in them, and you will get an idea how hot she is right now. In Zero Focus, she plays Teiko with an innocence and naivety that are truly believable. The other two main actresses also give solid performances. Miki Nakatani is most credible in her performance as the wife of a tycoon, while Tae Kimura has a smaller role as a receptionist but her acting here is no less impressive.

Zero Focus is a movie worth seeing even just for the acting alone. Viewers who like fine dramas will enjoy it, while fans of Ryoko Hirosue should put this on their must-see list, as the actress plays a much bigger role here than say in Goemon (JFF 2009) or even Departures (JFF 2008). And if unlike me, you have previously read the original novel by Seicho Matsumoto, on which this picture is based, I will be most interested in hearing what you think about the film!

Just a few words about the Japanese Film Festival: Of the five films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Japanese Academy Award, four will be showcased at the upcoming Japanese Film Festival in Australia, and Zero Focus is one of them. There are also heaps of others to choose from in a particularly strong line-up of films at this year’s festival. And to help you decide what to see, I have already written five special early reviews. I am certainly hoping to bring you more, as I can’t seem to get enough of the Japanese Film Festival!

7 beautiful red coats out of 10.
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