The society into which a person is born undoubtedly shapes that person’s life. Having been placed in a shelter at age four, where will a geisha’s son go? On the verge of adulthood and with no relatives around, joining the yakuza may seem to be the best choice. Finally, he has a family and a place where he belongs. Viewers, however, first encounter Masao Mikami past age 50 as he is being released from prison following a 13-year sentence for murder. With a heart disorder and having spent a half of his life behind the bars, it is now time to start over again, and in a lawful way. Soon, however, Mikami discovers what a problem this is. The bureaucracy of the Japanese system is crushing. He gains a little hope when a young film director decides to find his mother. Prejudices aside, Mikami is actually a fair-minded person, but when he gets angry, getting out of his way is the best thing to do. His heart brims with anger and despair, but those who believe will get help, and how he chooses to accept it is all up to him. The film is a kindly witty yet also a starkly chilling story of an ageing former ‘mafioso’ who is trying to finally fit in with the society that never gave him a chance while he was still a child.
The leading role was entrusted to Kôji Yakusho who won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes IFF in 2023 for his performance in Perfect Days.
The film discusses the issue of exclusion. Once a yakuza, always a yakuza: do people like him stand any chance of changing their lives? Do authorities help them or make everything more difficult for them? In truth, nobody ever forces anyone to join the yakuza. But a young person, stigmatised ever since their birth – unwanted, unloved, and rejected by their own mother – has only one desire: to belong. This film unveils less glamorous facets of the otherwise orderly majority society in Japan.
Nishikawa Miwa: “Is the world we live in a place worth adapting to?”
Film Festivals Awards:
2020 Toronto International Film Festival, Official Selection
2020 Chicago International Film Festival, International Feature Film Competition, Silver Hugo: Best Performance (Koji YAKUSHO), Audience Choice Award (International Film)
2020 Rome Film Fest
2020 Hawaii International Film Festival
2020 Geneva International Film Festival
2021 Seattle International Film Festival, Audience Award
2021 Toronto Japanese Film Festival, Kobayashi Audience Choice Award
©Ryuzo Saki / 2021 "Under the Open Sky" Production Committee