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“Harmonium” Movie Review by Daniel Barnes

HarmoniumHarmonium (2017; Kôji Fukada)

GRADE: B

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, June 23 at the 4 Star Theater in San Francisco.

Over one year after winning the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes 2016, this repressed and implosive Japanese tragedy finally receives a limited stateside release.

Mariko Tsutsui stars as Akié, unsatisfied small-town wife of a withdrawn machinist named Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) and mother to a harmonium-dabbling young girl.  Into their lives glides the ghostly Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a white-shirted ex-con with an unspoken connection to Toshio, something significant enough to warrant a steady job and a room under the family’s roof.

Still resenting Toshio for leading the life he felt he belonged to him, Yasaka slowly proves himself a better father and a more attentive husband than his old friend and new boss.  However, a sudden and shocking act of violence turns the narrative on its head.  Eight years later, pressed in by an overwhelming wall of guilt and grief, a new machine shop melodrama plays out, one that may finally provide some catharsis for all involved.

Harmonium is a borderline unbearable bummer at times, but it’s also quietly captivating, with smart and evocative framing and a trio of excellent performances.

Read more of Daniel’s reviews at Dare Daniel and Rotten Tomatoes, and listen to Daniel on the Dare Daniel podcast.