Friday, November 12, 2021

They Say Nothing Stays The Same Review: An Idyllic Setting For A Slow Burning Film About Life And Change

Release date: November 12, 2021
Running time: 137 minutes
Written and Directed by: Joe Odagiri
Cast: Akira Emoto, Ririka Kawashima, Nijiro Murakami, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Jun Marakami, Yu Aoi, Tadanobu Asano, Takashi Sasano, Mitsuko Kusabue, Haruomi Hosono, Masatoshi Nagase, Isao Hashizume

In the debut directorial feature by actor Joe Odagiri, THEY SAY NOTHING STAYS THE SAME follows an old ferryman in a remote Meiji-era community. His life is a peaceful, cyclical existence, given meaning by the essential role he plays in transporting people, livestock and goods across the water, connecting villages and lives. When news arrives that a bridge is being built, it's clear that his services will no longer be needed. Meanwhile, his life will be equally transformed by the appearance of a mysterious young woman whom he saves from drowning. Shot by star cinematographer Christopher Doyle and featuring an array of cameos from Japan's top stars, THEY SAY NOTHING STAYS THE SAME is a refreshingly old-fashioned work of classical cinema, its formal qualities mirroring its thematic concern with those fondly-remembered traditions sacrificed in the name of progress.

They Say Nothing Stays The Same's main draw is the beautiful scenery.  The film is set by an idyllic river next to untamed wilderness, and it really is a sight to behold.  And director Joe Odagiri does his best to highlight this setting with beautiful shots of the mountain and surrounding nature.  You get a sense of the area through several seasons as well, showing this beautiful setting over time.  And the setting is paired with some atmospheric nature sounds and wonderful music.  The nature sounds will make you long for some time outdoors, and the simple music is perfectly fitting with Toichi's relatively simple life.  Overall the setting is just so perfectly done that you can get lost in these characters and this story.  

And speaking of the story, I loved the focus on tradition, a simpler life, and the neverending cost of progress.  The film does such a great job showing Toichi and his life; allowing you to experience the tranquil pace of it within this beautiful setting.  It really will make you wish for something simpler, with the pace of life today and the neverending demands and distractions.  Toichi's life is not easy, but it seems pure and virtuous.  Additionally, for someone with so little he is generous of his time and personality.  And the film drives home the central idea of tradition versus progress throughout, making the viewer constantly question the cost of progress.

But, although They Say Nothing Stays The Same is an amazing cinematic achievement, there is a storyline that just seems unnecessary.  The film has a subplot involving a new character introduced partway through that seems like a distraction.  The character doesn't add much to the story, and seems to be put in there for some additional drama and a little bit of shock value.  I thought the film was strong enough with just Toichi and his friend; the addition of another character just didn't make much sense to me.  And some of the quirks of that character again didn't seem to contribute to the overall story and message.  But despite this, I really did love They Say Nothing Stays The Same and its understated, beautiful setting and message.

They Say Nothing Stays The Same has an idyllic setting mixed with wonderful music and nature sounds, driving home the central question of whether the cost of progress is truly worth it.  

Watch it.

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They Say Nothing Stays The Same is available in virtual cinemas.  For showtimes, click here

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