Non-Ko (Nonko 36-sai ノン子36歳 (家事手伝い) (kaji-tetsudai)) [2008] • Japan

Another nearly great film from director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri. The direction isn't as innovative as in Green Mind, Metal Bats, and the story isn't as novel either but Maki Sakai's performance carries the film more than enough for it to be engaging. I don't know why Saki isn't a bigger star. She seems like such an intelligent and courageous actress. Here she plays a thirty-something divorcee who used to be a popular movie actress starring in films with titles like Sexy Gambler and such. She has retreated to the countryside to live with her family who are caretakers of a Shinto shrine that is about to hold its annual celebration. Sakai's character isn't very likable, by viewers or by the other characters in the film, but somehow she makes her internal disappointment with life palpable and it brings you along for the ride. My only problem with the film is that I didn't like the one character who does like her, mostly because I couldn't understand why she comes to, momentarily at least, like him. He's a younger goofball of sorts who's come to set up a stall at the shrine celebration and ends up staying with Sakai's family. It's probably only his youthful ambition she finds attractive. The film is mostly bleak, punctuated with a few happy moments that seem a little out of place, and a couple sex scenes that require the infamous Japanese pixel blur.

Non-Ko is a successful portrait of a woman who feels anger, isolation, and disappointment in equal measure.

Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Starring: Maki Sakai, Gen Hoshino, Shingo Tsurumi, Kanji Tsuda, Ryûto Kondô


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