TIFF15 REVIEW: かくれんぼ [Hide & Seek] [2015]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 22 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Japan)
Studio: Tetra Company /​ New York University Tisch Asia School of The Arts
Director(s): Kimie Tanaka
Writer(s): Kimie Tanaka

“I can’t be like mom”

There are no easy answers when it comes to psychological and emotional conditions. What a “normal” person believes to be so easy could very well prove impossible for another no matter how mundane or seemingly harmless the task might appear. Kimie Tanaka‘s short かくれんぼ [Hide & Seek] depicts this struggle via a young man named Kotaro (Kuniaki Nakamura) who hasn’t left his home in over a decade. Shut-in his room except to use the bathroom, he even waits until his mother (Sachiko Matsuura‘s Mitsuko) leaves the hallway before opening the door to acquire the meal try she’s left behind. He’ll escape to the kitchen for a snack sometimes as well and it’s on one such journey that he discovers his mother unconscious on the floor.

Parallel to the domestic underpinnings of this dynamic, Kotaro’s brother Shoichi (Masaki Miura) is also introduced in Tokyo where he works as a nurse. More or less going through the motions at this point, he sleepwalks through the night shift helping an elderly woman use the bathroom—lying about not hearing her from the other side of the door for the sake of keeping her dignity intact and allowing the task to be completed. Shoichi is frustrated by his family back home, especially his mother for catering to Kotaro and refusing to see a doctor because it would mean leaving him alone. So set in believing the phantom ailment his brother suffers from as unnecessarily childish, he wouldn’t think twice about committing him if push came to shove.

The opportunity soon arrives and Tanaka’s message about hypocrisy and selfishness shines as a result. She carefully mirrors Shoichi’s personal and professional lives, showing how quick he’ll give a patient whatever she desires and still refuse to attempt understanding what’s troubling his brother. The woman he walks to the bathroom each night could feasibly be forced to wear a catheter yet he carries on regardless. But Kotaro—now without either parent and obviously full of fear towards the outside world—can’t merit the benefit of the doubt because it’ll be inconvenient to do so. Words are exchanged in error and we’re exposed to how broken Kotaro is and how unsympathetic Shoichi continues to be towards him. While we’re often too close to cogently measure certain situations, we hopefully acknowledge such before it’s too late.

Courtesy of TIFF

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