A former photographer who has lost his sight slowly starts a relationship with a much younger woman in this unusual but ultimately unsatisfying drama from director Naomi Kawase.
Ayame Misaki stars as Misako, an earnest woman who works at a company that produces audio descriptions for films to enhance the experience for the visually impaired. Through her job she meets the much older Masaya Nakamori (Masatoshi Nagase). That the cantankerous but handsome Nakamori would snare someone like Misako seems a stretch when we first encounter the couple.
The May to September romance slowly plays out over one autumn in Nara. The former capital is respected but past its best, echoing the status of Nakamori. The late afternoon scenes in rural Kansai are beautiful to watch but no famous Nara landmarks make an appearance.
Misako becomes obsessed by one particular image of a sunset captured by the former photographer. This plot device stretches credibility and is more likely to appeal to film judges than to the average moviegoer.
Throughout the 100-minute film we learn little about Misako, although there are hints that she has few, if any, friends. We do get to know a little more about Nakamori’s past and present and meet his companions, but most characters are given little to do.
For a film focused on a man who has lost his sight, sound plays a predictably important role. French sound designer Roman Dymny does a commendable job, while the French connection also extends to the editor and some Nouvelle Vague influences in the imagery and editing.
Fax machines, phone cards and ¥500 coins of the old design give Radiance a sense of playing with time similar to Pulp Fiction. But the smartphones give away the contemporary setting, and reflect the protagonist’s struggles not only with his loss of sight but with the modern world, although ironically modern gadgets aid his life.
The two leads both offer fine performances, but the story moves at a glacial pace. Any ‘will they won’t they’ tension is sadly spoiled by the film poster.
By Simon Duncan