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Review: Noriko's Dinner Table

Watched Noriko’s Dinner Table on Fandor and… well, quite frankly, I don’t know where to start. In terms of the themes it explores (the loss of identity and individuality, the erosion of one’s sense of self in the digital age), it could be described as a work of J-Horror… but in terms of its style and tone, it more closely resembles a twisted domestic melodrama.

Our story begins when seventeen-year-old Noriko flees her boring rural community in order to meet some internet friends in Tokyo. She quickly becomes involved in their “rental family” business, relishing the catharsis of play-acting as a widower’s rebellious little girl or an elderly woman’s adoring granddaughter (her own father is cold and aloof, too preoccupied with his job to notice how dangerously close his household is to unraveling). As she “connects with her true self,” however, she gradually disconnects from reality, immersing herself so deeply in her online alter ego (“Mitsuko,” inspired by the French perfume) that she begins to forget that “Noriko” even exists.

And that description barely covers the first third of the narrative! Clocking in at a whopping 160 minutes, Noriko’s Dinner Table spreads its subject matter a bit too thin—with director Sion Sono’s efforts to tie it in to the Suicide Club mythos coming off as gratuitous and self-indulgent—but the suspenseful climax, which reunites our heroine’s splintered family for an immensely disturbing meal (hence the title), more than redeems the movie.

[Originally written April 8, 2018.]

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