Review: 「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There)

13 thoughts on “Review: 「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There)”

  1. A 9/10 is quite a high rating, which makes me excited but the narrative and the character analysis in the review made me anticipate it even more. I really hope the 1 year difference for the release of this movie outside Japan is not too long. But… 🙂

    1. It is high and it is possibly too high – 8 or 8.5 would have been fine as well and objectively those might be more appropriate scores. However, the film really worked for me personally on a deeper level on which it might not appeal to others. I felt there were little things that I could back to and analyse, things that have subtly symbolic meanings but that most viewers would not notice as much – because in some films, the filmmakers want you to find certain symbolisms, in others, they are there as part of the filmmaker’s craft but they don’t amount to anything grander and they will become meaningful only to some viewers (not necessarily because they are more perceptive). I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well. I do think many would score this film a bit lower (Mark Schilling gave it 4/5 but was a bit more critical than myself, Derek Elley scored it 6/10 but I disagree with some of his criticisms and I can also see that he didn’t take away some of the things I took away from the film – I haven’t found any other reviews). I also have no illusions that this has any chance at even ending up on the Oscars shortlist.

      1. I have to say, I don’t usually agree with Schilling when it comes to his ratings. While I really enjoy how he adds info/tidbits about the movie and the director (most of the time), he can be quite snarky (to me).
        I agree when you say, the rating of the movie will depend on one’s perception and how it can move a person, and this is quite subjective because how we feel about scenes and stories depend on our own personal experiences.
        I enjoy reading your character analysis of the leads, and the way you talked about the role choices of them, that’s why I look forward to this movie, aside from the high rating you gave it, which made it even more one really anticipated film for me.

      2. That’s funny, because I generally agree with Schilling! Not sure about the exact ratings, but films that he likes I often like too. And we seem to enjoy similar type of films. He’s never struck me as snarky…. I’m often told that I’m cynical, though this may be more true for TV dramas. Or for films I don’t like – which doesn’t happen so often since I generally know what I like and don’t and therefore manage to weed out a whole lot of stuff and never end up watching (or reviewing) what I would be snarky about.

      3. First, let me say that Mark Schilling is one of the most reliable critics for my taste. I don’t think he’s snarky, maybe a little sarcastic at times without being malicious, mean-spirited, or self-aggrandizing.
        Secondly, I never like to be the guy who tries to rain on everyone’s parade. You know, when a bunch of love is being shared about a film to fly in and say I hated it. I’ve hesitated to chime in up to this point because, really, I felt that I, contrary to so many others, just didn’t like the film. Now I read this film is being submitted for the Academy Awards, so I must fess up and say that I think it’s a poor film, too.
        When I was feeling that it was a film I just didn’t find resonance with it was mainly for two reasons: I never like it when extreme emotions are shown as fueled by alcohol. Unless alcohol abuse is the subject it’s a cheap shortcut and almost NO ONE can act drunk very well; Masaki Suda’s character was like living next to a dog that barks at the top of its lungs 24/7. No range.
        The point is, though, some combination of the actors, writers, and the director made the decision to play things that way. 1) If an actor doesn’t have the skill or a script behind them to portray complex, conflicted, unkind emotions they can just do “I’ll play drunk so I can act like an ass wipe”. Not interesting to me, nor indicative of fine film making. 2) I’ve seen that Suda character a thousand times. They show up and announce “I’m going to be annoying for 90 minutes or so, but stick it out, I’m going to be the one with emotional story arc”. Seems like scriptwriting 101 to me. No surprises.
        Still, maybe just personal. But I can’t count the number of times while watching the film I threw my head back and sighed: “How much too long is this scene going to go on for?”
        In my defense let me state that, on the IMDb Asian Film board, I’m famous (as in, maybe three people know it 😉 The board isn’t very well attended) as the guy who LOVES and longs for scenes where nothing happens, and the actors just let us witness their inner thoughts and emotions. But it takes really good actors to pull that off.
        Here’s the thing: I never once felt bored, or that a scene went on too long, when it involved Chizuru Ikewaki–an actress whose skill, IMHO, dwarfs the two guys she was acting with. This is either because she has the skill to let a scene linger and let us inside her, or the scenes didn’t need to be elongated because she knows how to get her point across without asking us to stick around and look for it.
        None of my complaints here have to do with the overall story. I’ll keep those to myself. I’m okay with hearing people say they really liked the story, it moved them, they could relate to it. Whatever. But to say this was a well made film worthy of an Academy Award. I object.

      4. Well, we can’t all like the same films. It happens & it’s alright methinks. I certainly had my share “I can’t stand this but everyone else seems to love it” movies!
        I certainly don’t expect people generally to love this film, it’s pretty niche and too bleak. I did find it surprising it was submitted for the longlist (as I said, I don’t think it stands a chance, for a number of reasons). It spoke to me on some personal level (which is why I said my rating is possibly too high – it was a very personal rating in that sense, reflecting my very subjective experience of film as I watching it, alone, at home, in the dark 🙂 ). Whether it deserves to win an award… Well, it has won some awards (Raindance, Montreal FF), an Oscar wouldn’t really make sense though – because the Oscars aren’t interested in this sort of film!
        I don’t agree that Takuji’s character was limited to being a drunk, although I would agree that the character isn’t very developed nor anywhere as interesting as the other two (I’d put that down to the writing mostly).
        Regarding Ikewaki Chizuru: yeah, she’s very likely the most talented of the three – I’ve not seen enough of her, and I’ve also seen nothing else from Suda so I can’t really compare the three except in this film. Ayano Gou, I think, has a talent, but I wouldn’t put it him at the very top of the list among his peers, just among the ones that are talented and can certainly shine, especially in some roles. He’s given some very emotional performances (in Soratobu Kouhoushitsu but also here) which stood out to me. I do appreciate the fact that he’s willing to get down and dirty, unlike many actors that do only relatively clean and safe roles (obviously Ikewaki is the same in this aspect – her role is certainly one that many Japanese actresses wouldn’t even consider for a nanosecond).

      5. Thanks for not trashing me for being a killjoy. I had such high hopes for the film (thanks in part to you). To clarify: I don’t think Takuji’s character was *limited* to being a drunk. IIRC it was mostly evident/used in only the first few meetings. He had a couple redeemable scenes after that.
        For some reason this film, well … didn’t actually remind of another recent Japanese film, but it made me want to re-watch it because of the hopeful losers/alienation theme (or something): The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky (Fugainai boku wa sora o mita) [2012] • Japan by Yuki Tanada. I did, and it was just as good as the first time. Quality from every angle. I think Yuki Tanada is one of the brightest lights shining from Japan.
        And I would be remiss in not recommending a Chinese film before I leave: Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai ri yan huo) [2014] • China, Hong Kong … if you want bleak. 😉

      6. Range of opinions are allowed. No censorship or thrashing here 😀
        I’ve heard plenty of good things about both Cowards Who Looked to the Sky (which hasn’t screened in the UK as far as I know) and Black Coal, Thin Ice (which did screen at the London Film Festival, but I didn’t get a chance to go)…. both are very much on my to-watch list, particularly Cowards. I’ve seen One Million Tanada’s Yen and the Nigamushi Woman (ahh, that had Moriyama in it!)… and very much want to see her Moon and Cherry.

  2. Finally had the chance to watch it. I took my time to actually go through the scenes and remembered your narrative. I would have to say, the high rating is rightfully deserved. What a fantastic film!
    It is so appropriate of you to say, it would need two reviews. One for those who have seen it and there are so many things to talk about and another for those who have yet to see it or maybe inclined to see it after a certain recommendation.
    I wish it would have a fighting chance at the Oscars because I really want to have others see it too, but the sex and violence maybe too much for conservative audiences, and to Oscar voters who also follow certain “logic” or “non-logic”, it certainly has no chance at all, unless there is a miracle. But miracles don’t happen at Movie awards. Anyway, the point is, winning there could bring in more audience because it deserved to be seen. Other than that, who cares if they snubbed the movie.
    The Light Shines Only There is a wonderful movie that will linger long after you’ve seen it.

    1. I’m glad you got a chance to watch it and found it fantastic too!
      Yeah, I’m not too optimistic about the film’s chances at the Oscars, which I think prefers stories that come with more a bigger “feel-good” ending and universal appeal. This story is likely too bleak and personal for them. I wish it would at least make the short-list, but I’m not even sure that will happen. Though, to be fair, I have seen few (none?) of the other films on the long-list, so I can only go on the basis of the merit of this film.
      At least the film is doing alright in Japanese cinemas (I hear it has had an 8-month run at cinemas there). Let’s hope that it will tour some more of the international film festivals and pick up some awards here and there.

  3. Hello, I just finished watching a movie. I agree with it getting a 9/10 as well, simply because it moved me in a way. Not exactly close to home, but close enough to bump it a point or so in the ratings.
    Is it possible though that you could explain the ending more as to what exactly happens afterwards? I don’t want to spoil so I won’t get into much detail

      Well, the ending is open to interpretation. My personal interpretation is that the sunlight coming out is symbolic – after a dark, bleak film, there is finally some light coming through. I do think that Takuji ends up back in prison, but Chinatsu is not left to bear the burden of her family by herself anymore, because Tatsuo is there and stays with her. He accepts everything of her and of her family, their past, their present. Whether Tatsuo and Chinatsu will still go to his old workplace in the mountains is not clear, they may, or they might not. It hardly matters though, the point is that neither of them is alone anymore.
      The society around them, however, I doubt will change at all. That’s the reality that continues to exist because these things don’t change easily. However, even within such a depressing reality, you can find hope and happiness. It might just be with one other person, it might only be moments, and it might not last forever, but a glimmer of hope there is.
      That’s my interpretation at least. 🙂

      1. Thank you.
        That was my literal first impression but I had doubts and thought it was a dark ending for a while. I thought the title “The light shines only there” represented the opportunities that they could’ave had and the very small glimmering moments of bliss and happiness, but like all things, especially light, it fades and gets swallowed up by darkness. I really felt bad for Takuji since from the moment I was introduced his character, I could tell he was a very good man, just lost.
        It could just be me, but I interpreted pretty harshly since I’ve been watching quite a lot of films/series with purposely ‘bad’ or tragic endings. Thank you for your insight however! I definitely see how it could be interpreted that way!

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