Director: Isao Yukisada
Starring: Rena Tanaka, Ayumi Ito, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Shuji Kashiwabara, Eihi Shiina, Kazuki Kitamura, Taro Yamamoto
A Day on the Planet is a slice of life drama from Japan that concerns a group of friends meeting in Kyoto for a housewarming party. As the day unfolds, other things happen in Japan which may or may not be connected. From a whale beaching off the shore, to a man trapped between two buildings, a day has many opportunities and moments which are unique. As the day comes to an end and a new one starts, the film is a snapshot of what this particular day means and meant to this group of people.
Director Isao Yukisada evokes a bit of Juzo Itami and Hiroshi Teshigahara, if you can imagine, in this film. Moments of dry and ridiculous humor are interspersed with the delicate drama of a large group of characters. Of particular note are many long cut scenes of dialogue, one of them over 6 minutes that involves 4 characters, room changes, and almost continuous dialogue. It was pretty great to watch, really natural acting. The director was also a co-screenwriter, along with Shoichi Mashiko, and the dialogue is written very realistically with good flow, nuance, and inflection. The young actors really do a good job in realistically delivering their lines.
Though you are focused on a small group of the many characters in the film, everyone does seem to have a moment that reveals character and gives little clues to their motivations. For the review, it was my second time watching this film, and I definitely found little moments that I had missed the first viewing. Really nuanced, but telling. While for most characters, this is a day like any other, for some it is a day of realization. I really liked that idea since, little things you take for granted can end up being some of your favorite things and those moments are what make life worth living. It’s a really good sentiment.
Music is generally forgettable; in fact, I can’t recall a melody from the film, apart from the opening. There are a lot of 3 tone notes playing in backgrounds, but for the most part, silence purveys throughout. This really helps the acting however, since you find yourself drawn to the dialogue and engrossed in the conversation. Stylistically, this was probably a better choice considering the subject of the film. The film moves at an even pace, and just as you may get bored with a character’s arc, it switches to someone else. It definitely felt meticulously edited to keep viewers engaged in the goings-on of everyone in the film.
While showcasing some good young, at the time, talent, A Day on the Planet is not without flaws. The film’s slice of life narrative may turn some people off as there does not seem to an actual storyline to the film. There is no problem and no resolution, which I do not mind in the least, but will most definitely have some audiences wonder, “What was the point?”
In the end, A Day on the Planet is a nice, well acted little human drama. There is little to set it apart from others films like it, apart from the young talent, but it is a well made film. This is a film in the style which I feel most indicative of Japanese cinema, even more so than the period films of renown, and it is definitely better than many other recent entries into the genre. If you’re looking for a good young adult character study, you could do much worse than A Day on the Planet. Recommended.
You may enjoy the film if you liked: Weekend, Late Spring