Crime Drama

Redemption Against All Odds: A TIFF Review of ‘Under the Open Sky’

September 12, 2020Ben MK

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But when it comes to reintegrating ex-convicts back into society, can all of the onus be put on the proverbial canine — or are we partly to blame for the stigmatization they face? This is the underlying question behind Miwa Nishikawa's Under the Open Sky.

Once known by the fearsome moniker the Brawler of Kobe, middle-aged Masao Mikami (Koji Yakusho) has just been released from Asahikawa Prison after serving his latest stint, a 13-year sentence for a brutal murder he committed in defense of his wife, Kumiko. Now that he's out, however, all he wants to do is to become a productive member of society and to find his long-lost mother, a geisha who abandoned him when he was 4 years old. Enlisting the help of an empathetic journalist named Tsunoda (Taiga Nakano) to accomplish the latter, Masao sets out to change his old ways and to make an honest man of himself. But when he encounters nothing but hurdle after disappointing hurdle, he begins to wonder if all of his hard work and efforts might just be in vain.

A contemplative character study, the resulting portrait of a man equates to an oftentimes grim tale of struggle in the face of adversity. Yet, like a storm passing overhead, Under the Open Sky is not without its rays of sunshine. They're proof that redemption may not be out of reach after all — and, in the end, we believe it too.

Under the Open Sky screens under the Contemporary World Cinema programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 6 min.

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