Japanese Story (2003)
Directed by Sue Brooks
. Writing credits Alison Tilson
. Starring Toni Collette
and Gotaro Tsunashima
Against the background of an Australian desert landscape, so much space and so few people, Sandy, a geologist, and Hiromitsu, a Japanese businessman, play out a story of human inconsequence in the face of the blistering universe. The end of the journey leaves no-one capable of going back to where they started from. -- Summary by Anonymous from IMDb
A less eloquent summary plot is:
Reserved Japanese fellow comes to Australia, expects to be shown around by rough and ready Ozzie girl. Somehow they get together.
All that's pretty much implied by the poster and synopses.
Everything below this is a commentary of the film. I wouldn't read further if you're planning to watch it.
The first bit of the film is dedicated to show that they're from completely different planets. Sandy picks Hiro up at the airport and he gets into the back of the van with his suitcase.
The only sound Hiro utters in the first fifteen minutes is 'hai'. The first inklings that he might be able to speak English come from a laughably bad rendition of Danny Boy in an Australian karaoke bar.
The flames of awkwardness are fanned by Hiro getting so pissed he can't walk, forcing Sandy (her male companions having apparently abandoned them to their fate) to schlep him into the SUV and back to his hotel.
In The Middle Of Nowhere
A few days and a few mini-excursions later, Hiro forces Sandy to drive him into the desert, where rather predictably their vehicle gets stuck in the sand, allowing them some quality time alone. Most people probably expect this to be what the movie's about, utilising all the "alone in the desert, we only have each other, and at the end of it we'll fall in love" cliches in the book. All of that pretty much does happen. But by the time they shack up together in his hotel room, the film's only halfway though.
"I Have a Wife"
Class! Hiro blurts it out in the most indelicate manner, just as you're debating as to whether he'll stay in Australia (cautious Japanese abandons family and friends in a moment of madness, wild!) or whether she'll go to Japan (Sandy of the great outdoors abandons all she knows to live in a crammed metropolis, how romantic).
Oh no, it's going to be one of those films featuring a supposedly life-changing but really inconsequential tryst. "I'll never forget you...."
Whoops. No coming back from that one. The ten or so film minutes that Sandy spends trying to get Hiro's body into the back of the SUV instead of performing CPR makes sure of that.
The best romantic bits, soaked in tragedy, come after this. His death allows the story to come together really well.
How hard Sandy is hit by Hiro's death turns an unconvincing fling into something much more meaningful. She mourns him alone, unable to seek solace in anyone else because of the illicit nature of her relationship with Hiro. All rush to the side of Hiro's widow who flies from Japan, but who will comfort Sandy? 20 minutes of star performance from Collette.
Not exactly a happy ending, but there's a sense of closure in the end, and sometimes we're lucky even to have that in life.