Director: Masaya Kakehi
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Manami Konishi, Sumiko Fuji, Yuki Enomoto, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Jun Murakami
Takeshi Kaneshiro stars a Chiba, a shinigami, or Grim Reaper, who appears before a person is set to die and observes to see if the death should ‘Proceed’ or ‘Suspend.’ Unable to grasp human emotions and the feeling of human loss, he works through his job, always under the shadow of a rain storm whenever he comes to Earth to begin another observation. The film follows Chiba through multiple time periods as he decides when or if to ‘Proceed’ with a target’s destined demise or to ‘Suspend’ and give them more time on Earth. As Chiba weaves life and death through time, he finds that his decisions share a common thread from his influence.
Told in three acts, the film quickly establishes Chiba’s role and his interactions with the intended targets are the meat of the film. The varying personas give different insight and interpretation as to what death means to each character, while slowly revealing what the job means to Chiba himself. It’s overly sentimental and, aside from the first act, a little superficial. Not enough is known about each character and it all just seems clichéd and predictable to a point that I accepted death for the characters before they did. That’s not to say that the characters are unlikable, but simply a fault of the storytelling technique in bringing out the correct emotion in the viewer.
Director Masaya Kakehi plays it pretty safe and seems content to let Takeshi Kaneshiro do his thing. While not the first director to do so, the film would have helped with a sterner hand as opposed to the limp product we are left with. Some things he did right: The scenes with Takeshi in the ‘other’ world, the presence of other Reapers in the human world, and shooting of the exterior scenes. The world seems realistic but somehow otherworld and it takes on a dream-like shape, covered in rain as it is. The look of the film and art design is very good.
The music is actually quite good, with ambiance established through both dramatic and quieter moments. Composer Gary Ashiya, veteran of a number of high profile Japanese horror films, brings a much more delicate and restrained score to this softer genre of film. Actress Manami Konishi also provides the ending theme, also released as a single in Japan under her character’s name. It is a good solid J-pop song and a real surprise considering I was unaware of any singing talents she may have possessed.
Sweet Rain is an average drama anchored by some good talent and performances. Takeshi Kaneshiro is good, as is typical, with the supporting actors providing solid, if forgettable turns. The story however is slow and the final ‘payoff’ of the film isn’t really earned, but telegraphed from a mile away. Not a bad film by any stretch, but ultimately one that may earn you a watch and forget attitude towards it.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Wings of Desire, Meet Joe Black, Shinigami no Ballad