MIFF 2013: Capturing Dad

14 Aug

Ryota Nakano, 2012

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By Patricia Tobin

Capturing Dad follows the tale of two young sisters, 17-year-old Koharu (Nanoka Matsubara) and 20-year-old Hazuki (Erisa Yanagi), who receive some unexpected news from their mother (Makiko Watanabe). Their estranged father is dying, and are sent by their mother to visit him on his deathbed. However, he soon passes away before they arrive in the rural town of Ashigara. The girls now have to attend a funeral for a man they barely know, while confronting family truths and uncomfortable situations.

Capturing Dad succeeds with its stellar cast, primarily Makiko Watanabe as the stern, but caring mother. Watanabe displays deep motherly love and care, while balancing a cheeky, almost child-like demeanour when teasing her children. Matsubara and Yanagi are also promising young actresses, and provide some delightful moments as bickering sisters. 

Unfortunately, Capturing Dad ultimately suffers from poor execution, primarily under Nakano’s  direction. The film largely takes place on the day of the father’s funeral, where tense family dynamics would be great for the screen. However, Nakano does not seize or fully explore the all-too-common friction and strain among family and distant relatives. 

Capturing Dad aims to create a playful, off-kilter feel for dealing with the morbid subject of death and loss. However, it gradually becomes unclear what tone the film is trying to encapsulate. There are scenes that are genuinely weird and hilarious, including an ongoing joke about breasts among the tight-knit family. At the same time, there is an underlying sense of detached irony throughout Capturing Dad, which undermines the film’s heart-warming moments. 

In particular, the sisters’ younger half-brother Chihiro (Kaito Kobayashi) often serves as a reminder for familial kindness and care. Donning a crisp, white shirt and suspenders, the adorable Kobayashi attempts to befriend his sisters, but Capturing Dad‘s bemused attitude results in the sibling relationship being rather contrived.  

The ending, too, consists of a surprise element that feels utterly out of place, perhaps even unnecessarily forced. Capturing Dad struggles in finding a firm take on familial relations and grim matters. The film intends to retain a spirited outlook throughout, but its light-hearted touch slowly becomes muffled and unclear, turning sweet moments sour. 

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film athttp://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

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