Hush! (2001)

"Weak"

Hush! (2001) Review


Like a lot of romances, the inexplicably titled Hush! finds its footing in a rainstorm. At a Tokyo restaurant, the young and troubled Asako (Kataoka Reiko) discovers her umbrella's been stolen. Stepping in to help, Katsuhiro (Tanaba Seiichi) offers his. He can cuddle under his boyfriend's to get through the downpour, after all. So how should the undrenched maiden express her gratitude? There hangs a dreary tale, ham-fistedly told.

Asako, to put it mildly, has issues. Working a mundane job in a dental office, she lives in a rundown shoebox apartment and is pursued by a shiftless ex-boyfriend whose sexual aggression is close enough to rape to make no difference. With two abortions behind her and her emotional life in a shambles, she arrives at an odd solution to her angst: Have the fellow who loaned her that umbrella father her child. Never mind that he's gay, and that they barely know each other. Their conversation explains it all, or at least tries to:

"Your eyes," she stammers. "When I saw your eyes..."

"Eyes?" Katsuhiro says.

"I thought you have a father's eyes."

Might we get a close-up of Katsuhiro's eyes to judge for ourselves? No, we may not.

Hush! struggles mightily to form a compelling story around the complex emotions that come out of a woman insinuating herself into a young gay couple's life. But the relationship between Katsuhiro and his boyfriend Naoya (Takahashi Kazuya) is so skimpily depicted that it's difficult to see what bonds the two. We see them in a gay bar, walking down the street, or lying together in bed, but their relationship lacks any sense of chemistry or eroticism. Their arguments - mainly about Asako - ought to be a cue for the camera to move in and give us some telling glimpse in the actors' faces. But director Hashiguchi Ryosuke stubbornly shoots nearly everything in the middle distance. Either he doesn't trust his actors, can't work a zoom lens, or is experimenting with a new form of storytelling: The love story that refuses to let us get close to the lovers.

Still, Hush! does offer a handful of well-turned moments. A sequence where Katsuhiro visits his brother's family is built on delicately designed shots that illuminate some of Katsuhiro's personal struggles. His father was a brutal alcoholic, we learn, so Katsuhiro's charmed at his brother's ability to raise a young, precocious daughter. And when he accidentally catches his sister-in-law undressing and fidgeting with the back of her bra, an endearing sensitivity enters Katsuhiro's face. Maybe he doesn't have a father's eyes - whatever those are - but he has a perfectly human need for attachment, to an idea of home.

But the film's so trapped in its preposterous setup and lack of depth that its climax has to settle for that tired gay-themed-film staple: The Difficult Conversation With The Family. Asako pleads that she's looking for something "beautiful and good," but neither she nor the movie itself can adequately explain why a baby needs to be that beautiful, good thing, or why Katsuhiro's the right man for the job. Again, Ryosuke needs to take the blame here. The aforementioned Difficult Conversation is a painfully extended single shot that saps a dramatic moment of its emotional weight. And at 135 minutes, a lot of sapping in going on in general; Hush! is too long for such a tiny story.

So much for a Japanese Jules and Jim, then. What might've been an exhilarating exploration of an odd love triangle becomes a sprawl of uncoordinated vectors. A world of emotional ambiguity is never a good place to live. In Hush!, it's not a even nice place to visit.



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