Sunday, December 13, 2020

To the Ends of the Earth / 旅のおわり世界のはじまり - Movie Review

The Movie: To the Ends of the Earth旅のおわり世界のはじまり

The Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

The Cast: Atsuko Maeda, Shota Sometani, Tokio Emoto, Adiz Rajabov, Ryo Kase

The Story: A young Japanese woman finds her cautious and insular nature tested when she travels to Uzbekistan to shoot the latest episode of her travel variety show.

The Review:
For most of this year, I had been putting off watching this movie and I have no idea why. Now that I have watched it, I'm like damn, where have I been. The story is beautifully told and the cinematography is just gorgeous. If you've ever thought about going to the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan then this movie will most likely have checking flights and hotels. The scenery and backdrops and the depiction of the city is stunningly put on film by cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa while director Kiyoshi Kurosawa navigates the story.

Aside from the visuals, the movie features a strong performance from lead actress Atsuko Maeda who earlier in her career had been one of the original and most famous members of the J-Pop singing group AKB48. I did not know this until after watching the movie and it made sense to me because she sings a couple times and has a really good voice. Her character Yoko is very much an introvert and struggles while being in a different country where she doesn't know the language or any of the culture. The best moments of her performance are when she turns on her news reporter personality in front of the camera and takes on this super fun and bubbly personality that seems to have endless energy and enthusiasm. At least until the director says cut and she instantly reverts back into her introverted shell.

It's very interesting to see how effective Maeda is during those transformative moments and her performance, including posture and facial expressions, tells a lot of the story since her character doesn't talk very much unless she has to. The story ends up being one of transformation as the young woman begins to realize who she is and how that existence has been holding her back from achieving her dreams of being a singer. While I enjoyed the performance, I did feel that the story dragged a bit although that was balanced out by some really powerful moments and a big finale that is just breathtaking.

The Verdict:
To the Ends of the Earth is a beautifully filmed story of growth and realization. Atsuko Maeda embodies her character in a way that makes you feel her journey from beginning to end.

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