REVIEW: Tug of War (2012)
The thing I like about Japanese movies is that they are quirky, out-of-the-box and the actors and actresses are not afraid to embrace eccentric characters rather than be comfortable playing the typical hero or heroine stereotypes.
‘Tug of War’ is a feel-good and heart-warming Japanese comedy drama depicting a group of seven ordinary women of different backgrounds in Oita city, Japan that decided to form a tug of war team to save their job as cooks at a local catering company.
Why tug of war of all sports? Shouldn’t football, hockey or tennis seem to be the popular choice?
Well, it all started with the mayor of the Oita city, who in a bid to save the city from an economic slump, has appointed Chiaki Nishikawa, played by actress Mao Inoue of the public relations department to run a campaign to promote the city as well as to stimulate the local economy.
It turns out that tug of war was once a beloved sport in Oita; the city previously won the tug of war championship three times. And so, in order to save their jobs at a threatened local catering, the women decide to form a female tug of war team as the mayor said he would consider saving their food centre if they participated.
Reluctant but determined to save her city from an economy breakdown, Chiaki joins in as the seventh and final member as well as the captain of the team with Kimio Kumada played by Tetsuji Tamayama, their coach who has a crush on Chiaki.
Shy, awkward and always nervous when he is around Chiaki, Kimio might not be the typical effortlessly cool hero stereotype, but he can be tough, caring and encouraging towards his team when the situation requires him to.
At first, what seems to be a rather straightforward storyline (form a female tug of war team, train hard, win the championship and get to keep their local catering), the movie explores so much more.
The movie portrays the personal struggle of each member (a single mother struggling to take care of her stepson after the death of her husband, a chubby but bubbly girl who struggles to take care of her senile father, a housewife trying to make ends meet to support her injured husband) and also how they manage to have a good time when spending time with each other on the team,
Made out of colourful and rather likeable characters, the female characters in the movie are a strong willed and determined bunch. Rather than relying on others to achieve what they want, they strive hard on their own while at the same time learned to lean on each other during hard times thus forming firm friendships along the way.
Aside from that, the movie also manages to have some engaging humorous moments like the time when they have to compete against a junior school team and also heart wrenching scenes which involves a confrontation between a parent and child.
Overall I think the movie is pleasant and good humoured, but the final scenes irked me slightly because unless there is a sequel, the movie will leave the audience hanging at the end wondering what happened to all the characters. .
Not only does it not reveal whether they win the championship or not, we might never know whether they get to keep their jobs at the local catering. And although this part might seem less important in the movie, the audience may never find out whether Kimio’s feeling towards Chiaki will be reciprocated (it’s endearing to see these two together).
While the audience may find ‘Tug of War’ rather predictable and something that has been done before in a movie centred on a sporting event, it is the genuine emotion and a nice variety of characters that makes the movie worth watching.
Rating? It’s 3 out of 5 for me.
Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-2BK9BMoG0g
Tug of War (2012)
Directed by: Nobuo Mizuta
Written by: Daisuke Habara (screenplay)
Runtime: 111 min.
Rating: G (General Audiences)
Distributed by: Toho