Jmovie Recap: Waiting in the Dark
Romanized title: Kurai Tokoro de Machiawase
English title: Waiting in the Dark
Release date: 25 November 2006
Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring Tanaka Rena, Chen Bo Lin (AKA Wilson Chen)
Directed by Tengan Daisuke
Based on the novel by Otsuichi (Adachi Hirotaka)
Synopsis: A man on the run after being falsely accused of murder takes sanctuary in the house of a young blind woman who recently lost her father.
After seeing the South Korean film Bin-Jip, I wondered how this 2006 Japanese film would compare. And I have to say, there is the distinct creepiness factor present in both movies. Creepy. Creepy because having someone living in your house like a shadow while you are (un)aware. Unlike Bin-Jip, the male protagonist in this story does not go into people’s houses and lives while they are away. No, he is on the run for a crime that he didn’t commit and seeks refuge in the house of a blind girl who lives near where the crime took place.
The movie opens in a small town. There we see Michiru (Tanaka Rena) for the first time. She lives with her father in a house by the train station. Oh, and she is blind. No, she wasn’t born blind. She was in an accident when she was a teenager and lost her site due to that. Despite being blind, Michiru takes good care of her house and cooks for herself and her father. The two have a comfortable relationship, and Michiru’s father unobtrusively takes care of his daughter and brings her books on tape and in braille to keep her occupied as she has no job (which her handicap isn’t preventing her from taking one as there are jobs available for the blind).
One night, her father works hard writing a braille card for her. The next morning, he promises to bring her some books home. Before he leaves, he off-handedly states that he left a card for her. Michiru goes to the kitchen and finds a box with the card. After carefully working out each letter (she is still not up to par on braille), she figures out that it says “Happy Birthday.” Mirchiru smiles and opens the box. Inside is a music box that holds a pretty rose necklace. When Michiru pushes the middle of the necklace, it reads off the time. This makes Michiru happy, but her happiness does not stay. That same day her father dies. Whether it is an accident or natural causes isn’t really revealed. Michuru’s good friend Kazue (Miyaji Mao) takes Michiru to identify the body. Poor Michiru.
Then the day of the funeral arrives. Family members and friends gather to mourn Michiru’s father. All present then wonder what will become of Michiru since she is blind. Her one aunt comes up to her and reveals that her mother was at the funeral, but refused to come in (seems like Michiru’s mom abandoned Michiru and her father when Michiru was a little girl). At first Michiru doesn’t do anything, but her aunt comes back again and tells Michiru that her mother is just outside the window at the train station. Michiru opens the window and yells to her mother, but receives no answer. Later, Michiru’s relatives all say they have no way of taking care of Michiru. They apologize for this and say that Michiru should go to a home for the handicapped. Michiru says she is legally an adult and decides to live on her own. She has her father’s insurance money so she will not hurt financially, plus she is used to their home so no adjustment is needed.
Michiru continues on with her life like normal. Then one day, there is a ruckus at the train station. A man has been pushed onto the tracks. Of course, Michiro has no idea what is going on. She hears the doorbell ring, but when she opens the door, she hears no one. However, in front of her is a young man (Wilson Chen). He does his best to make no noise and skirt around her. Michiru believes that someone is present, but cannot seem to find them. She goes back inside where the young man, Oishi Akihiro, does his best again to avoid detection. Akihiro is the same young man we’ve seen several times at the train station already. When Kazue and Michiru went out for a little while, he noticed that Michiru was blind and that is probably what brought him to her door.
Michiru goes and sits back down at her table and Akihiro goes and sits by the window where he monitors what is going on. A policeman then rings Michiru’s bell and asks if she noticed anything suspicious earlier. Michiru replies that she hadn’t while the worried Akihiro watches from around the corner. After the policeman leaves, Michiru almost catches Akihiro, but he manages to barely elude her touch. A while later, a woman neighbor comes by saying that Michiru’s shirt blew off the line. Michiru touches the shirt and says that it is indeed hers. The woman introduces herself as Mishima Harumi and asks if Michiru is blind (kind of obvious). Michiru says that she is and Harumi then invites Michiru to come by the restaurant where she works. Maybe Michiru will make a new friend.
Now what follows before we get to learn Akihiro’s story is just a montage of how Michiru and Akihiro spend there days. Michiru senses someone else’s presence now and then, but since she can’t see and Akihiro makes no noise, she cannot ascertain if he is really there or not. Anywho, Michiru’s days are spent cleaning, playing the piano, watching television, or just plain sleeping. Wow. And mostly Akihiro just sits by the window, only moving to look out at the train station.
Now, we get to see Akihiro’s story. It turns out he is half Japanese, half Chinese. He was working at a printing company with the dead man, Matsunaga Toshio (Sato Koichi). Akihiro was quiet, worked diligently and always kept to himself. This, of course, did not help him with his coworkers. When one did try to reach out to Akihiro, he declined to go with them saying he had stuff to do. His stuff to do was to call his mom in China and then pick up a bento at a convenience store. Wow. His attitude soon leads him to be even more ostracized at work. Matsunaga then begins to bully him by talking down to him and not treating him like a normal person. It seems that Akihiro could not take this anymore and one day decided to get revenge by pushing Matsunaga onto the tracks. Thus how he ends up at Michiru’s place.
And to break up the inanity of Michiru’s and Akihiro’s existence, Kazue pops up to take Michiru out of the house for some air. Kazue isn’t happy that Michiru always keeps to herself shut up in the house. Michiru asks Kazue to take her to Harumi’s restaurant. The girls have a good time and take some pictures together. Kazue is happy to see Michiru starting to get to know her neighbors and seems relieved to know that a nice person like Harumi doesn’t live to far away in case Michiru should ever need help. On their way home, Michiru mentions that she thinks there is something in the house and Kazue asks if it is rats. If so, they’ll get some rat poison. Michiru then says it isn’t rats, but a ghost. Kazue is always with Michiru and always helping her. However, Kazue does her best to encourage Michiru to try things on her own, like going out for walks, grocery shopping, getting a job, or getting some of the new technology to help the blind. Michiru is actually very against anything new which exasperates her friend.
One day while Michiru is making food, she notices she is out of something (that is my guess) and moves a stool over so she can reach the tops of some cupboards. While searching for something, she loses her balance. Akihiro is quick, but not fast enough to catch the falling Michiru. She crashes to the floor with dishes falling around her. Akihiro manages to catch a tureen just before it could crash down on Michiru’s head. He then quietly puts it down next to her. When Michiru gets up and feels the unbroken pot near hear, she says “Thank you.” That night, Michiru makes dinner and sets the table like she did when her father was still alive. Akihiro then joins her for dinner, eating quickly and then going back to sit by the window. Oddly enough, Michiru smiles when she hears him come to the table and eat. You know that she has been suspecting for awhile that someone was with her, but you’d think she’d be a little more freaked out by this when it is proven true.
And the two continue on just like this. Seriously. No speaking whatsoever. Kazue comes to take Michiru out once more. Kazue confesses that she has gone to the restaurant several times now and talked with Harumi. Kazue tells Michiru that Harumi is engaged to be married next year. Kazue then tells Michiru that she needs to get out and meet new people (that way she can get a guy like Harumi has). After dinner, Kazue invites Harumi to spend Christmas Eve with them if she isn’t too busy with her fiancée. Harumi says she will if she isn’t too busy. The girls then go grocery shopping. When they get back to Michiru’s place, Kazue asks Michiru to practice going out on her own when Kazue is there to watch over her. Michiru, recalling her last attempt to go out when Kazue brought it up the first time, does not want to. Kazue is unhappy to hear her friend is still not moving forward with her life and then tells Michiru that she is leaving and won’t see her again. Ouch.
After Kazue leaves, Michiru brings the groceries into the kitchen. She takes them out of their bags and then gets angry, throwing them to the floor. She then runs up to her bedroom. Akihiro then comes and cleans up the mess for her, recalling his time at the shop and how he used to work, and how Matsunaga treated him. The next day, Michiru says to herself that she can make it on her own and goes to call Kazue who immediately hangs up. Michiru tries again, but Kazue hangs up once more. Michiru plucks up her courage to go out on her own once more, but is stopped by Akihiro. He goes with her. Even though he was hiding out, he went with her to protect her.
At the start, Michiru clutches his arm, but she slowly lets go and makes her way with Akihiro intervening every now and then to keep a serious disaster from happening. They then reach Kazue’s house. Michiru thanks him and tells Akihiro that she knows he is a good person. She then gives him her father’s coat to wear (since all he had one was a sweater) and tells him to go back to her place to wait for her as the door is unlocked. Michiru then goes to the door and Kazue is shocked to see her there. Michiru confesses that she held help and probably could have died at least 3 times on her way over if her new friend hadn’t been there. Michiru then says that she is willing to try things out now. Kazue says that is not what she said last night and Michiru says she is trying because of Kazue. So the two officially make up.
Meanwhile, Akihiro is outside a police post. Does he want to turn himself in? While trying to figure out what to do, Akihiro recalls lowering his hands after Matsunaga turned around to face him and then we quickly see another set of hands push Matsunaga. Say what! So Akihiro is really innocent! Akihiro does not go to the cops, but instead turns around and leaves.
Kazue takes Michiru part of the way home, but Michiru insists she can finish the journey by herself. Michiru then goes to the train station to ask after what happened. She believes that Akihiro is a good person and seriously asks after the events of the murder. Apparently a worker saw both Matsunaga and Oishi. He did not see Oishi push Matsunaga, he just saw Matsunaga’s body on the tracks and then Oishi went running. Michiru asks if he saw anyone else on the platform, but the worker said no one else came in. But we saw that second pair of hands. Michiru then goes home, but the house is empty. She then sits where Akihiro always sat and notices that he was always looking out the window. Why?
So where is Akihiro? Talking to his mom in China who apparently has heard of the news. Akihiro denies killing his coworker and says he saw the person who did it. But since he doesn’t know her name, he can’t do anything. Thus he is staking out the train station waiting for the girl to come back. She hasn’t returned yet, but he hasn’t given up hope. His mom says that she believes in him and he thanks her.
**DON”T READ BELOW THIS POINT IF YOU DON”T WANT TO KNOW WHO THE KILLER IS BEFORE WATCHING**
The next day Akihiro discovers the pictures that Kazue gave Michiru from their first time visiting Harumi’s restaurant. Akihiro is shocked. It’s the girl he’s been looking for! We then get to see the whole scene of how Akihiro just couldn’t bring himself to push Matsunaga when a woman climbs up the platform (she didn’t take the conventional route so the worker didn’t see her) and runs towards the two men. She quickly pushes the stunned Matsunaga in front of the train. Akihiro is in shock and the woman quickly runs away. That’s when the worker comes. He notices the lone Akihiro and not the retreating Harumi. The worker gives chase and Akihiro runs. And the rest is as we already know.
Kazue and Michiru are preparing for a party. Kazue goes out to get some crackers for the party leaving Michiru to finish preparing things herself. While Michiru waters the plants outside, she notices a presence. She asks who’s there and Akihiro replies it’s him. He is surprised when Michiru calls him by his name. So she knows he is the man wanted for murder. He quickly tells her that he didn’t do it, but he knows who did. Michiru says that was why he was always watching out the window. This deduction also surprises Akihiro. He then tells her everything. This stuns Michiru. She cannot believe her new friend was Matsunaga’s lover and that she killed him. Michiru asks for time since Kazue is coming back soon. Afterwards, they will go to Harumi’s workplace together. Akihiro agrees to this and settles outside to wait.
Michiru goes back into the house and Harumi is already there! Michiru sets down the cake that Kazue decorated and then begins asking after Harumi’s boyfriend. Harumi tells Michiru that her boyfriend works in the printing industry and will be opening his own shop soon. Michiru keeps asking questions and the more Harumi answers them, the more you know she is talking about the deceased Matsunaga. Michiru then tells Harumi that she knows that Harumi killed Matsunaga and that Harumi only came to visit initially because during the accident, Michiru was in the window and Harumi didn’t know she was blind. So Harumi came over with the pretense that laundry had come off the line. Wow. Michiru is one smart cookie. Harumi loses her cool and attacks Michiru, strangling her. Akihiro hears something amiss and runs inside just as Kazue comes back. Kazue rushes inside after she sees the mysterious Akihara rush inside. Akihara quickly pulls Harumi off Michiru. Kazue is stunned – she has no idea just what is going on. The gasping Michiru then goes over and hugs the crying Harumi who apologizes. For trying to kill Michiru? For killing the ass Matsunaga?
Akihiro goes home and back to work. He hands in his resignation. His boss says that they all thought Akihiro was really the murderer, but since he is innocent he can stay. Akihiro refuses and leaves where he runs into his one coworker. The man is frightened and quickly throws himself against the wall to get away from Akihiro. Eyeroll. Akihiro then goes to visit Michiru. He confesses that he is getting kicked out of his apartment because people still believe he killed a man. Michiru automatically offers him his usual place by the window. Akihiro smiles at this. He then talks about how he never felt he belonged anywhere and how he always was searching for the place that he fit in. He then confesses he realized that he wasn’t looking for a place to stay, but rather for someone to want him to stay. Michiru says nothing and Akihiro goes up to leave as he failed in his mission to cheer her up per Kazue’s orders. Michiru then asks him to go for a walk.
The two walk without talking until the get to a park. Akihiro makes a comment about wanting all people to be able to bloom and Michiru stops him and thanks him. All thanks to him she believes she has the confidence she needs to go out on her own and can finally bloom. Good for her. Then the two just start walking companionably again.
That’s it! Seriously. We don’t know if Michiru asks Akihiro to stay because she wants him to, not because she feels sorry for him or needs him. But because she wants him and likes him. I think there could have been a few more minutes for a little resolution. Oh well.