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Amnesiac Japanese man attempts to reclaim his lost life, yet finds very little purpose on his journey to recovery - from the San Sebastian International Film Festival


Our protagonist Miyamatsu (Teruyuki Kagawa) has two jobs and lives a simple life. He works at a cable car company, and also plays extras in films in order to make ends meet. Rewind 12 years in time: he is a taxi driver, living in the halls with the other drivers. This flashback ends by him fighting with a colleague and banging his head. Back to the present: a taxi driver and old friend visits Miyamatsu during a shooting. He says he recognised him on television. Miyamatsu discovers that his real name is Yamashita. He also learns that he has a younger sister.

The hapless man has suffered substantial memory loss. He travels in order to visit his sister and her husband. With them, he discovers he has some unexpected skills. He can play baseball extremely well as he used to when he was young, despite having no recollection of his experiences. Little clues from his sister will progressively nudge him towards memory recovery. The problem is that the atmosphere in the house becomes a little oppressive.

Miyamatsu’s job as an extra is inspired by the experience of one of the three writers and directors. From the montage, you get tricked several times into thinking he goes out for dinner with friends or lives with his girlfriend, until the director yells “cut” and reality hits. Miyamatsu rightfully points out the absurdity of this job when he says that he once died four times in a day. But he prefers to live his life without making decisions. When his colleague notices how careful he fills up a report sheet, he answers that he likes the feeling of filling up the spaces in the frames.

This is an extremely slow and delicate film, almost entirely devoid of music. Very few emotions are visible on the face of our stoical protagonist. Except for a little sob while smoking a cigarette again, or a sudden hint of a smile. His general lack of expression fits in well with his hitherto seemingly uneventful life. His sister is also very dispassionate. It is never clear whether she is happy to be reunited with her brother. Yet their bond appears to become stronger. She eventually reveals some critical information such as the fact that they are not full siblings. Yet a lot of information remains undisclosed. Miyamatsu does not ask many questions, his lack of interest making the film a little laborious. Miyamatsu’s quest for his lost life and the underlying cause for his memory loss is quiet and rudderless.

Roleless premiered in the 70th edition of the 70th San Sebastian International Film Festival, in the New Directors section.

By Svetlana Pinet - 26-09-2022

Svetlana works in San Sebastián, Spain and is lucky enough to have a great film festival right at her doorstep. Unlike her name suggests, she is French. She loves travelling and has lived in the UK a...

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