In Memories Corner (French-Canadian, 2011), French journalist Ada (Deborah Francois) travels to Kobe to report on the region’s recovery since the 2005 earthquake. She’s assigned an interpreter, Akira (Nishijima Hidetoshi), who not only shows her around and facilitates her interviews but also offers his own insights into the situation as someone who grew up in the area.

During her investigation Ada meets Kenji (Abe Hiroshi), himself a survivor of the quake and a tenant in one of the newer apartment buildings erected to house the many left homeless by the disaster. He hints to her about the phenomenon of kodokushi (“lonely death”, i.e. dying in isolation, to be discovered later) which seems to be on the rise. This is not exactly the type of upbeat story the government wants publicized and so Akira discourages Ada from speaking to him any further. Luckily for her, she and Kenji have a mutual language (English) and so she continues meeting with him despite her interpreter’s objections.

It’s an unusual, quiet little story, in ways rather different from what I’d been expecting based on the somewhat-vague synopses I’d read. This is why if you’re at all interested, I’d encourage you to just go watch it and not try to find out too much more about where the story goes.

I should add that if you’re a fan of either actor, this is a no-brainer. In fact, what initially caught my eye about the film is the bilingual performances by Nishijima Hidetoshi & Abe Hiroshi. I remember being impressed when, in a later episode of the J-drama Yama Onna Kabe Onna, Nishijima breaks out the French and it doesn’t sound like he had just memorized it phonetically. Judging from this film I’d say he seems rather fluent, although as someone who doesn’t know French myself I could be totally off-base (I’d love to hear an opinion of his performance by someone who actually speaks the language).

As for Abe Hiroshi’s English, it’s also pretty good though his inflection at times is different enough that I had to pause and relisten so I could catch everything. It wasn’t really a big deal but it would’ve been nice if my Canadian release DVD had included subs for the English dialogue and not just the French. (As for the Japanese, most of it gets translated immediately into French by Akira which is then subbed, and the few lines that he doesn’t translate are in fact directly subbed.)