I didn't know what to expect from Miyuki (2007), but the Japanese name, plus the introduction describing civil unrest during Japan's Sengoku period and the disturbance of a child's remains in a temple ('Some things should not be disturbed') led me to believe that I was about to see a supernatural film. There are, surprisingly, no supernatural elements in the film however, and what we have here is a domestic drama, a sort of Orphan (2009) meets soap opera (and yet another phenomenally bad advert for letting foreigners into your home!)
The film opens with an American family, the Mackenzies, welcoming a Japanese exchange student into their home. Miyuki (Yuri Nanami) is gracious and polite, but reserved about discussing her own family, saying only that she has come to America to 'start a new life'. She joins a language college and seems to be settling in, but - gradually, via flashbacks, we see Miyuki thinking back to her childhood (and hearing about the incident described in the intro). Meanwhile, the perfect Mackenzie family seems to have its demons too. Edward, the gardener, tells Miyuki that he thinks Natalie (the mother) is cruel, and son Liam reveals that dad once had an affair, which prompted Natalie into a suicide attempt. Then the family dog is murdered…
As if that wasn't all bad enough, continuing flashbacks show us that Miyuki had a tragic childhood (natch!) and that she inadvertently poisoned her close family, after distributing a drink given to them by a disgruntled former tenant of her father's. Oh dear. So when one of her co-students starts getting heavy with Miyuki, she has a bit of a violent outburst. Soon suspicion about Miyuki and her shady past starts to close in, and things go from bad to worse as her violent outbursts grow more intense.
Thing is though, that Miyuki never really feels convincingly menacing. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it seemed that a lot of the script was ad lib, so that conversations between characters often slow to a halt, or rather clumsily trip over one another - all of which contributes rather unhelpfully to the pacing here. And then, Miyuki's sinister behaviour tends to amount to very little - a few failures in basic childcare and a bit of nude sleepwalking does not a gripping flawed character make, and even where she lets loose and starts wielding weaponry, she still never really seems to move from the periphery of the action, and so the horror/suspense elements of the film are not fully realised. This is a rather garbled drama unfortunately, with some characters who don't really seem necessary at all (such as Edward, the gardener) and an introduction which doesn't seem to be built upon during the course of the film. It meanders along, is far too long, and meanders to a close, and I never fully felt engaged by what was going on here. More believable characters and a tighter pace could have upped the possibilities for generating tension, but Miyuki never quite got there, despite boasting some decent cinematography along the way.
The screener contains a theatrical trailer, and a decent Making Of featurette where director Immanuel Martin talks about his inspiration for making the film, as well as featuring interviews with the cast.
Review by Keri O'Shea
|Released by Big Bite Entertainment|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|