From the splatter of Kichiku to a film about a middle-aged man in deep denial who begins to understand himself with the aid of a mystery girl. Ichio (Kitano regular Terajima, very good) cooks for passing truckers and travellers in his father's roadside diner (named 'Hole in the Sky') in remote Hokkaido; he's never forgiven dad for mum's departure when he was very young. The penniless Taeko (Kikuchi) is dumped on the premises by an absconding boyfriend; she sticks around as a helper, has a brief fling with Ichio, and helpfully points out that it's about time both men got over losing the woman in their lives - before sensibly moving on herself. There seems to be a really good movie buried in this meandering, repetitive mood piece with its vague but insistent symbolism, but Kumakiri can't quite find it. It might help if he moved beyond thinking of women as ciphers.