Movie review: ‘A Good Husband’

The cast is a formidable ensemble, with Toyokawa, as a man grappling with regret and longing, and the veteran Ishibashi, expressing Bunta’s inner strength.

Isao Yukisada’s bittersweet love story “A Good Husband” upholds the rich humanist tradition of Japanese cinema. Adapted for the screen by Chihiro Ito from Mayumi Nakatani’s novel, it employs a daring sleight of hand in its storytelling and allows some acclaimed actors to soar in complex roles.

Kitami (Etushi Toyokawa) is a gifted photographer who has fallen into a querulous relationship with his wife, Sakura (Hiroko Yakushimaru), who is desperate to have a child. Last year, Sakura persuaded Kitami to vacation in Okinawa over Christmas, but this year he flatly refuses to go.

We then meet aspiring actress Ranko (Asami Mizukawa), who will do anything to get Kitami to shoot the picture that will help make her a movie star; Kitami’s assistant, Makoto (Gaku Hamada), who tries to find him work; Bunta (Renji Ishibashi), a dignified sixtysomething transvestite and a devoted family retainer; and Nishida (Yu Shirota), one of Sakura’s students.

Time spent with these characters threatens to become tedious and digressive — until, in a surprising flashback, Yukisada reveals what happened in Okinawa the year before. The audience then sees Kitami and the people in his life from an entirely different perspective.

The cast becomes a formidable ensemble, with Toyokawa, as a man grappling with regret and longing, and the veteran Ishibashi, expressing Bunta’s inner strength, emerging as highly impressive and resourceful actors.

“A Good Husband.” No MPAA rating. In Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes. At the MPark 4, Los Angeles.

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