Filmmaker Kei Chika-ura brings his sophomore feature, GREAT ABSENCE, to TIFF 2023. Gorgeously shot on 35mm, the story unfolds within flashbacks between estranged father and son and the present-day disappearance of his stepmother, Naomi.
As dementia sets in, Yohji’s arc proves devastating to witness. The story also unravels the piles of notes strewn about Yohji’s home. Takashi must piece together this collection of garbled messages, love letters, and diary entries.
Tatsuya Fuji plays Yohji with a stern but soft heart. His mental decline brings out agitated frustration and a wild confidence in his storytelling. Understanding his background makes it all the more impactful. As Takashi, Mirai Moriyama brings a weariness and a curiosity that captivates. He puts the audience in his shoes. As the father-son relationship becomes more apparent, the more impressive the work. The chemistry between the two is something of cinematic dreams. It is as if they each play dual roles that are quietly award-worthy.
Yutaka Yamazaki‘s cinematography is memorable. There is something special about letting the camera be static and allowing the performances to speak for themselves. The script surprises with every scene, which is quite a feat for a two-and-a-half-hour runtime. GREAT ABSENCE is a nuanced look at memory, perception, regret, and the endless complexities within relationships. This film will bring you to your knees.