#Review: Harmonium – East Asia Film Festival 2023

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Harmonium is a film by Japanese director Kōji Fukada. It will be at the IFI during this year’s East Asia Film Festival. The film follows a family that aren’t particularly close. The family consists of mom Akie, daughter Hotaru and dad Toshio. At the beginning of the film, Toshio is met by his old friend Yasaka, who has served over a decade in prison. Yasaka asks Toshio for a favour and ends up working with Toshio and staying with the family. As Yasaka becomes closer to Akie and Hotaru a toxic undercurrent within the family is revealed, with tragic consequences.

Harmonium is a hauntingly tragic story about how the secrets we keep can destroy us and everyone around us. It’s quietly terrifying in its execution of something human, the little white lies that we keep from everyone.

Tadanobu Asano is fascinating as Yasaka. He feels almost like a ghost, coming back to haunt Toshio for past misdeeds. He’s a man, who at first glance seems content and who has learned from what seems like a genuine mistake in his past. However, he has a subtle edge and throughout the film, it feels like he will tip at any moment. It’s how he holds himself, it’s how he moves. It’s unnerving, even when he’s trying his best to fit in.

I won’t be any trouble

Another standout is Mariko Tsutsui as Akie. She is clearly a woman who feels unloved and underappreciated. Her husband is a deeply unemotional man, I actually don’t know how she ever fell in love with him. As the film goes on and Akie and Yasaka form a bond through their connection with Akie and Toshio’s daughter, Hotaru. Their bond grows throughout the film and as he emotionally connects with her, she grows closer and closer to him.

With the performances and the story, Harmonium is quite a memorable film. I will say that even though the film is quite emotional it didn’t hit me as hard as I expected. Saying that, the film has a powerful ending that centres around the themes of secrets, lies and the karma that comes with them.

Harmonium is a brilliant film. Between the intimate cast and the emotional story, it tells an emotional and impactful story. I didn’t quite connect to it as much as I would have liked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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