Love Life - A Tragic Haze
There are plenty of ways to depict tragedy in cinema. You can dive headfirst into the harsh realities of life a la Requiem for a Dream, you can relish in the hardships Freddy Krueger style and turn sadness into horror, and you can even inject a little levity and go for a more comedic route – after all, comedy is tragedy plus time. What tends to be trickier for filmmakers is resisting all three of these routes, taking a genuinely terrible situation and still retaining some restraint and even beauty in its depiction.
This is exactly the route that Japanese filmmaker Koji Fukada takes with his latest film LOVE LIFE, an intense domestic drama told deftly at the volume of a whisper. The film follows the complicated life of Taeko, a woman living happily with her husband when her domestic bliss is upended by the reappearance of her son’s father, now homeless and unwell. Without spoiling any of the other tragedies the universe throws at poor Taeko and her family, there are moments that still manage to hit hard, and Fukada does an impressive job of making you feel as powerless as his protagonist.
From a glance at the plot summary of LOVE LIFE, it would be easy to categorise this as an exercise in brutality, trying to demonstrate the cruelty of the universe. But the title remains earnest, and even when ensconced in tragedy, Fukada gives us softness and beauty.