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Review: Tomorrow There Will Be Fine Weather

[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

Hiroshi Shimizu’s Tomorrow There Will Be Fine Weather is a fascinating companion piece to the director’s own Mr. Thank You. The earlier film (released in 1936, an… eventful year in Japanese history) is set entirely on a crowded bus navigating the winding mountain paths to Tokyo, a narrative gimmick that lends the otherwise minimalistic slice-of-life story a sense of urgency and relentless forward momentum. While this spiritual successor (made in the aftermath of World War II, which obviously gives it a markedly different cultural context) begins with a similar premise, it quickly subverts the expected structure by having the vehicle break down in short order, stranding the frustrated commuters on the side of a barren, dusty road miles from the nearest town.

Despite the comparative physical inertia of the plot, Shimizu keeps the action emotionally dynamic by emphasizing the myriad interpersonal conflicts that gradually develop between the wonderfully nuanced characters. In the movie’s most dramatic scene, for example, a one-legged veteran confronts a remorseful army officer on a pilgrimage to visit the graves of the many soldiers that perished under his command—a mutually traumatic encounter that inevitably erupts into violence. In a more comedic episode, a blind masseur—who has up until this point consistently impressed his fellow travelers with his insightful observations and keen attention to detail—struggles to communicate with a deaf-mute octogenarian. And then, of course, there’s the surprising relationship between the beleaguered driver and his most conspicuously out-of-place passenger: a glamorous celebrity with a scandalous reputation back in the big city.

Running a lean, breezy sixty-five minutes, Tomorrow There Will Be Fine Weather is nevertheless packed with so much deliciously compelling material that it feels… not longer, necessarily, but certainly more substantial than its relatively brief duration would suggest. Richly textured and thematically dense, its intimacy and economy make it more genuinely cinematic than any of the superficially spectacular blockbusters currently screening at multiplexes. I’m glad that it was recently rediscovered after languishing in obscurity for almost three quarters of a century (to the extent that it was actually considered lost media before being salvaged from the vault of a studio that neither produced nor distributed it—I’m not particularly religious, but that must have been an act of divine intervention); now let’s hurry and get it on home video, where it can be properly appreciated by a wider audience.

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