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DVD Review: ‘The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck & God

★★★☆☆

Having been released in its home country of Japan all the way back in 2007, The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker has finally reached British shores thanks to its DVD release courtesy of Third Window Films. Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura (best known in the UK for penning 2002 chiller, Dark Water), the film is an adaptation of author Kotaro Isaka’s award-winning novel of the same name. Opening as something of a quirky teen comedy, the unravelling of the central mystery leads to a touching portrayal of guilt and regret that will certainly capture the attention of its target audience.

Shiina (Gaku Hamada) arrives in Sendai to begin his studies, jauntily singing Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind. He picks himself up after the trauma of discovering that he’s left his CD player at home, and scours his accommodation block for new friends. Initially rebuffed by one surly neighbour, he then meets the guy next door; the rakish Kawasaki (Eita). Sharing musical tastes – “Dylan is God” – they sort of hit it off and soon enough, Shiina finds himself aiding his newly found compadre in holding up a local supermarket to inexplicably steal a specific dictionary.

Within its opening stages, the intentionally odd-ball nature grates somewhat but as Kawasaki relays the story of a Bhutanese student – he who shunned Shiina at the beginning – and lost love. When our protagonist also meets a beautiful pet-store owner, Reiko (Nene Otsuka), his trust in his friend is undermined as he is revealed to be something more than he seems. Despite this, Shiina seems unable to extricate himself from the orbit of the magnetic Kawasaki.

Although the film doesn’t stand out especially with regards to its visuals, the lead talent on show all give fine performances. The tone of the film shifts to something much more sincere as shape is provided to the tale of the Bhutanese student, Kawasaki himself and the young woman that brought them together through love, Kotomi (Megumi Seki). Some dark secrets are revealed but these, in turn, bring to light the heartfelt motive for the earlier robbery.

With the final pieces falling into place, comes the realisation that The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker is about a lot more than it may initially have appeared. What could have been a run-of-the-mill coming of age comedy finishes with a poignant examination of loss and remorse as well as a heart-warming beginning of a meaningful friendship. It never quite shakes off its overtly alternative stylings but the substance does enough to make up for that.

Ben Nicholson