The heroine of "0.5 miri" (0.5 mm) is a wanderer who, as an uninvited helper, brings light into the lives of lonely elderly people. This masterful work by director Momoko Ando takes an extended look at the essential components of a life well-lived.
The director's younger sister, Sakura Ando, plays the protagonist Sawa, who is a nurse for the elderly but finds herself unemployed one day. To support herself, she begins doing odd jobs for elderly people who have problems, helping them with their daily lives. Through her encounters, both Sawa and those she helps slowly start to change.
The film is based on a novel of the same title written by the director, based on her experiences of caring for her elderly grandmother, along with her family, until she passed away.
"I felt compelled to do the formal passing of the torch, so to speak, to carry the torch of life onward, and this feeling became the motivation for me to write the novel," Ando says.
She regretted she didn't listen more to what her grandmother had to say. She also felt anger toward Japanese society for failing to properly respect the elderly. From the beginning, she was thinking of making the story into a film, but she decided to write the novel first because she thought she had to "spit it all out at once."
The reality of nursing care for the elderly, along with their wartime experiences, are important elements of the film, However, what emerges through their experiences is life itself.
"People tell me, 'there are various themes in this film, like nursing care and the war,' but I didn't want to lump them together with those words, and that's why I wanted to make this film," she said. "There are countless feelings of joy, anger and sorrow as well as life stories out there, and it's my job to face up to each one of them."
While she was writing the novel, Ando had her sister in mind to play the heroine. Her sister, who has won praise for her acting and screen presence, is for the director "the actress I've always wanted to work with most and with whom I'll always want to work."
Ando wanted to see her sister costarring with such great actors as Masahiko Tsugawa, Junkichi Orimoto and Mitsuko Kusabue, who all play roles of elderly people.
"I expected something far exceeding my imagination would come out when Sakura Ando and these legendary actors enter the same ring, and that's what really happened," Ando said. "Because I, her sister, was behind the camera, '0.5mm' shows many expressions of Sakura Ando that no one has captured in a film before."
"When you're creating something with another person, my ideal is not '1 + 1 = 2,' but the infinite possibilities," she said. "Novels and pictures are both important means of expression for me, but when it comes to films, it's not about facing only yourself. In films, there are an infinite number of possibilities that produce unknown quality."
The shoot took place in Kochi Prefecture, where there is a strong contrast of light and shadow. She says she took the opportunity of filming there to actually move to the prefecture. In collaboration with the local government, she built a temporary theatre in Josei Park next to the Kochi Castle in Kochi. Advance screenings of the film began at the theatre on Oct 24.
"I like creating things from scratch, and Kochi is a place where you can do so together with local authorities. People in my generation walk on the paths our elders cleared. It's about time we began clearing our own paths," she said.
The movie is showing at Yurakucho Subaruza and other cinemas. For more information, visit www.05mm.ayapro.ne.jp.