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FILM REVIEW: Survival Family サバイバルファミリ4 min read

19 March 2019 3 min read


FILM REVIEW: Survival Family サバイバルファミリ4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Residing in Tokyo, the Suzuki family is a dysfunctional family, where everyone is self-centred and absorbed in their own lives. One morning, they wake and find out that all the electricity is off. They decide to go to work and school, but the trains and cars are also out of commission. Entire weeks passes, the situation remains unchanged, and their food supplies begin to dwindle. With no option left, they head to Kagoshima on bicycles, but the journey brings trying times they tackle to make it through.

Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
Year: 2017
Cast: Fumiyo Kohinata, Eri Fukatsu
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
Runtime: 117 min

Review by Leon Lau

How many sci- fi apocalyptic films and series have we seen in the past two decades? Everything from The Walking Dead to Children of Men, the focus has always been on how a single event breaks humanity, and plunges it into chaos. Which is why Survival Family (2017) stands out so uniquely from the pack. Instead of throwing all its cards into telling a dark, gritty story like everyone else, it embraces the humor and humanity of its characters. Survival Family is a hell of a road trip movie, one that is filled to the brim with laughter, thrills, and even some heartbreak.

The film is told as a dysfunctional family comedy, and our heroes all start out as stereotypes that you will immediately recognise. There is the father, (Fumiyo Kohinata), a stubborn, proud man who buries himself in work. The mother (Eri Fukatsu), who spends day and night taking care of everyone. Her daughter (Wakana Aoi), whose only concern is with appearances. And finally, Yuki Izumisawa is the distant son, trying to earn the affection of a girl he fancies. It all sounds incredibly cliched at first, but it only makes their eventual growth that much more satisfying to watch. Once the blackout hits and electricity goes out, every character hits a massive turning point as they embark on a road trip for survival.

Much of the humor here is based in Japanese culture, where it depicts how a polite society like theirs might handle an event like this. There is an amusing scene early on where several company men debate on whether or not they should break into their office doors, and end up exchanging name cards before taking any action. Workers refuse to go home in fear of seeming lazy, and people still queue up neatly for rations. It’s an incredibly optimistic depiction of an apocalyptic scenario, which might turn off the more cynical viewer.

But of course, the real star of the show is the cast, and ensemble films like this only works if the actors have chemistry with each other.  Thankfully, the family members have incredible chemistry, and their interactions produce some of the most entertaining and touching moments of the film. Yuki Izumisawa has one of the meatier roles as the son, who goes from a slacker who never acknowledges his family, to a man who slowly learns to step up and learn the meaning of responsibility. More impressively, every family member has their own arc, but it never feels rushed. Without spoiling anything, the third act of the film is incredibly emotional, and went in directions that I never expected. There are plenty of twists and turns here that deserve to be experienced firsthand.

Saying goodbye to these characters I’ve grown to love was bittersweet, and it’s a mark of a great acting and writing. It might be unconventional to inject comedy into an apocalyptic tale, but this is one a gem of a film that dares to be different and manages to stick the landing. If you have the chance, absolutely give this one a watch on the big screen with your family.

Catch the screening of Survival Family (2017) on 21 March 2019 here.

The Happiness Film Festival

Held in Singapore, The Happiness Film Festival is the world’s first film festival that promotes happiness. They hope to raise greater awareness on happiness and well-being through films and post-film dialogue sessions. Film is a powerful medium that can engage audiences and start meaningful conversations. The post-screening dialogues will bring together speakers to talk about issues or ideas explored in the film.


Introverted gamer who enjoys chilling out at home. Binges Netflix and Terrace House on occasion and lurks around YouTube. Currently working on working out while waiting for Stranger Things. Enjoys bad puns.
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