Film Review: ‘I Want to Go Home’ is a Heartfelt Look At a Man’s Undying Devotion To His Wife5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
On the 11th of March, 2011, Yasuo Takamatsu lost his wife to the tsunami during the Great East Japan earthquake. Since that fateful day, he has been diving in the sea every week in search for her.
Director: Wesley Leon Aroozoo
Cast: Yasuo Takamatsu
Country: Singapore, Japan
Runtime: 61 minutes
“His reply was simple. He dives because that is the only way to feel close to Yuko again.” That is a line from Wesley Leon Aroozoo’s book, I Want to Go Home, which has also seen its reprise on screen in the documentary film with the same title directed by the author.
I Want to Go Home is a short yet compelling glimpse into the fragility of human lives and objects in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Above all, it is also a poignant memory of heartbreaking loss, only overcome with an unending amount of love and resilience. Making its premiere at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival, the documentary follows Yasuo Takamatsu, who lost his wife to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and recounts his attempts to locate his wife by diving into the sea every week.
The documentary takes a grounded approach. Conversations with Mr Takamatsu are kept to the intimate setting in his home in Onagawa. Despite the documentary’s focus on Mr Takamatsu, there is also a sense of resonance felt between him and the crew. His reflections are honest and heartfelt, showing that there is a sense of trust formed between him and the filmmaker. As Mr Takamatsu flips through old photographs, the camera meaningfully captures all of it, serving as a filmic preservation of his wistful memories.
The documentary also relies a lot on recorded footage from witnesses of the 2011 Tsunami. When paired with footage shot in the present time, it becomes apparent that while repairs have been completed for most of the structures affected by the Tsunami, Mr Takamatsu’s unfathomable grief would remain for a long time.
Aroozoo’s intention is also somewhat experimental — he incorporates animation and children’s drawings into his film as Mr Takamatsu narrates about his childhood in Onagawa. The sound design excels in this portion. Distant sounds of waves crashing echo in as Mr Takamatsu recollects fishing with his father. Sounds of bicycle wheels spinning as he recalls his first fall. The haunting gush of wind as a typhoon approaches. They are also accompanied by a soothing piano piece in the background, and the combination of sound elements is effective in creating a visual-aural landscape of nostalgia and fears. As soon as the montage ends, it cuts back to Mr Takamatsu’s empty living room and the choice of editing here is powerful in directing the attention back to Mr Takamatsu’s reality, which is faced with gripping loss.
Despite an overwhelming sense of grief felt throughout the film, Mr Takamatsu continues to remember his wife through memories. Whether it is receiving clothes from her as gifts, or simply remembering that she preferred her coffee black, there is always a semblance of her in his life that strengthens his determination in his dives to find her.
There is also an underlying message behind I Want to Go Home, which stresses the need for awareness towards emergency evacuations. As pictures left behind from the aftermath of the disaster are strewn amidst piles of debris, one can only imagine just how many lives were lost because of negligence in emergency evacuations. The ability to shed light while also informing about natural disasters that commonly shake Japan is remarkable in this documentary.
Raw and honest, I Want to Go Home is a wonderful visual accompaniment to Aroozoo’s book, which also comes with a Japanese translation provided by Miki Hawkinson. In early 2021, an experiential art installation for I Want to Go Home was also set up by Mural Lingo and the Arts House in conjunction with the Light to Night Festival. To this day, Mr Takamatsu is still diving in hopes of finding his wife, and we can only hope that she will someday return home too.
I Want to Go Home is now streaming on MUBI. Published by Math Paper Press, Aroozoo’s book is available at BooksActually.
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