IN THEATERS (SF) – “Harmonium”

Harmonium (2017; Dir.: Kôji Fukada)

GRADE: B

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, June 23 at the 4 Star Theater in San Francisco.

Over one year after winning the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes 2016, this repressed and implosive Japanese tragedy finally receives a limited stateside release.  Mariko Tsutsui stars as Akié, unsatisfied small-town wife of a withdrawn machinist named Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and mother to a harmonium-dabbling young girl.  Into their lives glides the ghostly Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a white-shirted ex-con with an unspoken connection to Toshio, something significant enough to warrant a steady job and a room under the family’s roof.  Still resenting Toshio for leading the life he felt he belonged to him, Yasaka slowly proves himself a better father and a more attentive husband than his old friend and new boss, until a sudden and shocking act of violence turns the narrative on its head.  Eight years later, pressed in by an overwhelming wall of guilt and grief, a new machine shop melodrama plays out, one that may finally provide some catharsis for all involved.  Harmonium is a borderline unbearable bummer at times, but it’s also quietly captivating, with smart and evocative framing and a trio of excellent performances.