In an intriguing premise, actress Kasumi Arimura plays a dramatised version of herself, making the most of a rare holiday from work. Entitled “At My Home”, episode one of this eight part series follows the titular star going back to visit her mother.
Though the opening sequence implies a more peppy, bright sit-com, the first episode is fairly ordinary. This description could otherwise be disappointing, were it not for director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s passion for domesticity. Bringing warm home life to the screen is his specialty, from Our Little Sister to Shoplifters — and despite the limitations of the TV drama style — this laid-back approach helps the story feel similarly genuine.
Escaping urban Tokyo through the little details of tinkling house keys with bells on, flowers on the windowsill and the tactile intricacies of home cooking, the audience make themselves just as at home as Arimura. Though awkward at first, Arimura falls into delicate synchrony with her mother, actions subconsciously mirrored as they fold leaves together and pay their respects to her father.
As Arimura sets about signing autographs for her mother’s friends and leaving the grocer starstruck, A Day Off makes for a humanising study of what happens to home when fame hits. It compares what changes and what stays the same when your mother gets her own life outside of you and the charming Jun Fukubi doesn’t waste time winning hearts. With Arimura playing herself, one hopes her own experiences informed the process of telling this story, and with her palatable shifts between comfort and discomfort it certainly feels that way.
Kore-eda beautifully orchestrates the heartache of a family missing its father and filling the void with someone new in this limited screen time. It’s early days but the introduction of this character, played by Shinnosuke Mitsushima, presents a fascinating new dynamic. The storyline is nothing to write home about just yet, but with more to come, this wholesome Japanese drama sets up opportunities for authentic and endearing developments. From the trailer, she doesn’t quite hit the extremes of Ferris Bueller, but Kasumi Arimura has fun times and soul searching ahead.
A Day off of Kasumi Arimura screened as part of the virtual edition of BFI London Film Festival 2020
by Fatima Sheriff
Fatima (she/her) is a biomedical sciences graduate and aspiring science communicator. Literary adaptations with beautiful soundtracks call to her, but she enjoys anything with an original concept, witty writing, diverse casting or even the briefest appearance of Dan Stevens. Her favourite films do fluctuate but her love for Paddington 2 is perennial. She can be found on Letterboxd @sherifff and on Twitter here.