Welcome to the Quiet Room — he said, she said — movie review — early!
Posted on October 20, 2008 by Chris & Kris
Although easy to classify as a “Japanese Girl Interrupted“, such comparison does this film a rather serious disservice. You see, Welcome to the Quiet Room is actually a good film. Make that an excellent one. In fact, it is one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year.
Welcome to the Quiet Room concerns a young journalist, Asuka Sakura (Yuki Uchida), who accidentally ends up in the hospital following a dangerous mixture of pills and liquor. Although an inadvertent overdose, her situation is deemed an attempted suicide, and thus, Asuka is forced to stay under observation until the doctor’s feel she no longer poses a danger to herself. The “Quiet Room” of the title refers to the hospital’s isolation room, where patients who pose threats to themselves or others on the ward are left to chill (often in restraints) until they calm down; the very room Asuka finds herself in upon her arrival in the hospital.
In going into the Quiet Room I figured I’d be in for another touchy-feely, angst-ridden female-bonding drama, as per the comparisons I’d heard to the Winona Ryder film. But instead, the outset of the film proved fairly lighthearted, borderline satirical. At this point, I figured the film was instead a comedic send-up of mental care (a la: Mixed Nuts), but even that was a ruse. You see, after acclimating the viewer to the hospital setting and the characters found within, the real Welcome to the Quiet Room springs to life. And what a wonder it is. Welcome to the Quiet Room is a journey down the proverbial rabbit hole of the ego, a surprisingly emotional tale of self-assessment, realization, redemption, hope, and yes, humor. And, while its initial humor draws on stereotypes and eccentricities, its counter-balancing drama explores the doubts we all have, or have had, provided we’ve taken the time to look in the mirror. And as with real life, there’s joy, pain, struggle, and discovery; friendship, conflict, disappointment and surprise. I know I run the risk of being vague here, but I don’t want to divulge too much. Suffice it to say our main character goes away with far more than a flippant non-sequitur regarding their time with the kooky girls of Ward C.
But before I finish, I must give mad props to Yuki Uchida. Without her performance the film wouldn’t be half as good as it is. This is the kind of performance deserving of legitimate acclaim, raw, nuanced, emotional, and most of all, authentically human. Also, the work of upcoming cinema auteur, Suzuki Matsuo (Otakus in Love, Ten Nights of Dream). Quiet Room‘s script-writer, director, and author of the source novel, Suzuki Matsuo shows amazing skill both behind the camera, and in balancing the narrative’s assortment of seemingly disparate tones and thematic elements. In even the most competent director’s hands such a concoction could border dangerously on disaster, but Matsuo pulls it off with impeccable style. Amazing.
In closing, you really have to see Welcome to the Quiet Room. Hit your local film festival, track it down on eBay, do whatever you can to see it. It’s that good.
Welcome to the new Wizard of Oz is the goal here, with lead Asuka Sakura (Yuki Uchida) desperately trying to revert to happier times when she played Dorothy in High School. It is intriguing that Welcome to the Quiet Room accomplishes such a lofty feat while staying in the same four rooms, basically. And yet you don’t feel claustrophobic once the characters blossom, as everyone committed to the ward has radical personality variants. The beauty in such a vast range is to find the similarities, the connections, the pieces that make them and us human. The bizarre glitches that we may see in others may be difficult to accept in ourselves. Asuka slowly realizes that a deeper breadth of problems attack her psyche, a guilt she cannot willfully erase, yet subconsciously deleted. With the gift of circus-esque quick-cut vignettes, flashy with an array of ethnic tunes and squeals, expertly executed (in fact, this film seems to have more edits than most Japanese films), we see her life unfold, events which she is re-discovering as we are viewing it, and also glimpes into how her mind works. Brilliantly, we only see flashbacks as she assembles her memory shards, some disjointed with consistency breaks and trackbacks, just like real memories are.
As she struggles to find herself, we also see only what her loved ones permit her to remember, fiction forming supplanted memories, in order to protect her. Or perhaps its to protect themselves from reality. The betrayal she experiences for being committed by her boyfriend Tetsuo Yakihata (Kankuro Kudo, with his pants down, pictured above right), who then only reveals snippets of the whole story. His dolt friend Komono (Satoshi Tsumabuki with a monobrow, pictured below right) complicates the situation briefly, although he’s not a great fibber. Asuka’s feelings towards her late ex-husband (played by Shinya Tsukumoto — I can’t imagine anyone better for this role even just based on docile salaryman looks alone) also keep “interfering” with her denial.
Like Dorothy, Asuka meets many characters on her journey towards self-discovery: a snooty nurse, a sweet nurse, lesbians, a gothic lolita robot with limp wrists I guess… maybe if you keep trying to look like a doll, you end up with its mannerisms? She’ll have to decide exactly who is genuine in this environment, too.
At the end of Welcome to the Quiet Room, you may feel a sudden wash of sorrow if you think about all the people in your life who you’ve left behind or who have left you behind, and the memories you may have subconsciously revised or may never be able to recover. But, just like Asuka realizes, facing your troubles and forgetting your past mistakes must be followed in that order.
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