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Review: When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty

In her brief introductory speech preceding Japan Society’s screening of When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty, director Yuho Ishibashi claimed that the movie would feature “nothing dramatic.” This phrasing is, of course, somewhat misleading; while the film’s self-described slice-of-life plot is rather subtle and minimalistic, it is hardly devoid of drama. Indeed, the relative mundanity of the conflict—our heroine must grapple with such ordinary, everyday challenges as nosy relatives, lonely microwave dinners, impatient customers at her convenience store job, the monotony of the graveyard shift, and a broken curtain rod that her landlord refuses to repair—ultimately enriches the story; the narrative stakes, although minor, are universally recognizable and relatable.

Despite the inadequacy of the subtitles (which appear to have been either automatically generated via A.I. or written by a translator with only a tenuous grasp on the English language—occasionally rendering the dialogue borderline incomprehensible), I found When Morning Comes, I Feel Empty to be a delightfully offbeat cinematic experience. Characterized by a quiet, gentle, unassuming atmosphere that makes the handful of emotionally gutting scenes all the more impactful, it’s a bona fide indie charmer akin to the works of Richard Linklater, Hong Sang-soo, and Abbas Kiarostami.

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