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Alone but Not Alone: A TIFF Review of ‘To the Ends of the Earth’

September 17, 2019Nick Armstrong

Securing its place among writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's most optimistic efforts, To the Ends of the Earth marks another stark exploration of social detachment by telling the story of a young woman, Yoko (Atsuko Maeda), who is the on-screen host for a popular travel show that is filming in Uzbekistan.

Throughout the film, many of the factors contributing to Yoko's feelings of isolation slowly reveal themselves to the audience. There is a jarring juxtaposition between her bubbly on-screen persona and her off-screen introversion. What feels unique about the movie, however, is that the character is not presented to us as disingenuous, as she would be in so many other satirical films. Rather, she is merely incapable of maintaining eagerness in the face of her dreams slipping away from her.

Kurosawa has always been excellent with utilizing the spaces occupied (or unoccupied) in his frame in order to externalize his characters' emotions, but To the Ends of the Earth accentuates Yoko's isolation by filling the frame with people whom she cannot engage with. Though Kurosawa always approaches his stories with an empathy for the growing pains of a fast-evolving culture, here he delivers what is perhaps his warmest feature yet.

To the Ends of the Earth makes its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 0 min.

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