Michael Potts | 6/12/2020
A raw character drama about family and the legacy of one’s actions, One Night is a serviceable production with a cast engaging enough to uplift an at times thin script.
The events of a single night in 2004 separates a mother, Koharu Inamura (Yuuko Tanaka), from her three children, Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki), Sonoko (Mayu Matsuoka) and Yuji (Takeru Sato). After fifteen years, she returns to the taxi business she left to find Daiki in a failing marriage, Sonoko having given up on her dreams of becoming a hairdresser, and Yuji a distant freelance journalist. Slowly she comes to learn of the knock on effects of that one night where she left and, despite her own hopes, just how trapped her children are in the past.
Director Kazuya Shiraishi brings his unvarnished, visceral style of filmmaking to One Night, with an aesthetic seen in previous works such as The Blood of Wolves (2018), though this time around in a mundane setting. The film keeps its focus always on the characters, without expending time on any purely visual spectacle, which is not only appropriate in the context of the story, but also helps take advantage of One Nights’ greatest asset, namely its cast. The performances of the four leads, as well as a number of supporting actors, are deft and evocative. Particular praise can be directed towards Ryohei Suzuki, whose stammering and withdrawn portrayal of Daiki is as authentic as it is engaging, as well as to Yuuko Tanaka who brings a quiet power to the returned mother of three.
It is fortuitous that the actors are able to bring such strong performances, as they make up for what is otherwise a fairly unremarkable script. Whilst the story deals with a number of compelling themes, such as crime, broken families, parenthood and the lasting consequences of our actions, in many instances it feels like the narrative isn’t delving far enough into the real issues at its heart. This is not to criticise the overarching plot, but rather to say that the story’s exploration of the themes at play can at times feel too shallow or lacking in originality. This culminates in a resolution which doesn’t quite feel sufficient in light of all that preceded it. Nevertheless, the performances add enough meat to the bones to make the film worth watching, and with the characters feeling so real it serves to almost fill in some of what is otherwise missing on account of the scripting.
A film that feels personal, almost gritty even in its emotional honesty, One Night is a drama worth the watch.