Satoshi Miki is a rising star in the Japanese film scene. His first film established him as a somewhat strange and atypical director, Adrift in Tokyo [Tenten] only seems to underline this classification. His films succeed in blending drama and comedy in a pretty interesting way, creating something larger than the sum of its individual parts. Adrift In Tokyo is no different.
On the surface Adrift In Tokyo looks pretty simple and basic. Even that is an accomplishment, as the premise of the film is pretty outrageous. Odagiri plays a student down to his last cent and carrying a whopping 800.000 yen debt. When the debt collector makes his final visit he makes Odagiri an offer. Walk with him through Tokyo for as long as he demands, offering Odagiri 1 million yen in return. When was the last time that ever happened to you?
The first hour of the film is spent travelling through the streets of Tokyo, slowly revealing the background of both protagonists. Some pretty strange revelations are made in subtle, down-played conversations, but somehow they never feel out of place. Miki also knows the traits of the Japanese drama by heart and applies them graciously throughout the film. Plenty of quiet moments, silent characters and observant shots. Action fans be warned.
Miki's uniqueness lies in these quiet moments, which he not only applies for subtle drama but also for some pretty dry and oddball comedy moments. They pop up rather unexpectedly and are often gone as quickly as they came, but they manage to give the film a rather dreamlike and warm atmosphere. There aren't too many laugh-out-loud moments, but chances are you'll be wearing a rather big grin the entire running time, maybe even some time after.
Visually Adrift In Tokyo is a little uneven. From time to time Miki wakes up and throws in some visual candy, on other times he seems to forget about this rather important aspect of cinema. The film never looks cheap or dull, but some scenes can be a bit boring, making you wonder if he shouldn't have tried just a little harder.
The final half hour sees Odagiri and Miura settle down to wrap things up. Two new characters are introduced and with them a whole lot of extra warmth creeps into the film. The drama setup starts to pay up while the comedy level remains constant. The film works up to a pretty simple but engaging finale which left me somewhat in trance. Not because big and important things had happened, but simply because reality started to seep back into the room.
Adrift In Tokyo is a rather lovely film. It knows how to blend comedy and drama into a perfect mix of blanket-like warmth, covering the viewer with a world he'd somehow like to inhabit. Visually the film has its faults and there is not much in the way of a soundtrack, but the acting is superb and the comedy works magic, acting as fuel for a simple and light-hearted dramatic finale.