Date released: March 20, 2014
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Written by: Kanae Minato (novel), Tamio Hayashi
Watched with Japanese audio and English subtitles.
Starring: Inoue Mao, Gou Ayano, Misako Renbutso, Nanao
I think this is my first movie review here and I don’t really know what format a standard movie review takes so I’ll just wing it. I don’t watch many movies. I prefer dramas (as opposed to Western TV shows because those are not very satisfying). But I did say that I’m going to venture out into new genres and do new things so here I am: venturing.
Right. The plot of The Snow White Murder Case is relatively simple. A beautiful office worker is found murdered in a forest some distance from the city in which she lives and works. A guy who works for a TV show gets a call from an old classmate, Risako Kano, who spills the beans about the murdered office worker, mainly that the dead woman used to be her mentor at work and the murderer is most probably one of the women she works with. Someone called Miki Shirono. The guy, Yuji Akahoshi, decides to work on this story and develop it into a segment for the show he works for. So the story is basically a murder mystery. However, the execution of this story is vastly different.
When we first meet Yuji Akahoshi, we find him tweeting compulsively. He’s a deplorable character if one judges him from his tweets which are simply lies and posturing that he does online to make himself look better than he is. Japan is big on Twitter. People love it so it’s unsurprising that modern Japanese literature delves into the phenomenon to create stories that are relevant to our times and our society.
The movie is a character study. Shirono Miki is shown from many perspectives and it is a testament to Inoue Mao’s acting prowess that she is able to show one character in so many different ways. As Yuji goes around interviewing the co-workers, lovers and enemies of both the murdered woman and the alleged murderer, Shirono Miki, complicated, often contradictory, testimonies of both women emerge.
Noriko is painted as a goddess by most of the coworkers while Miki is seen as a dour, jealous and plain rival (though Inoue Mao is anything but plain). Friends remember Miki as shy; ex-boyfriends as stalkery. A childhood friend remembers Miki as pure-hearted and kind. The real Shirono Miki and not just what she is perceived as by other people appears three quarters of the movie later and with her appearance, the mystery rapidly unravels until we are left with a chilling conclusion.
What makes this movie memorable is how relevant it is to all of us. Even though the movie is Japanese, considering the global love affair with social media, the message will transcend cultural and language barriers. Character assassinations on social media are, unfortunately, not new but such a poignant portrayal of it is. I don’t watch many Hollywood movies so I may be unaware but I don’t think a movie like this has been made here.
The movie contains no black and white characters and all the major players, except for Shirono Miki, are deplorable. Yuji who finds himself basking in attention and adoration after the first segment of the program is released finds himself unprepared for the backlash and hate leveled his way when the tides turn. Internet fame is fleeting and fickle and this is illustrated beautifully in the movie.
Also understated (and therefore having a greater impact) is a moment when Yuji finally meets the real Shirono Miki and fails to recognize her. The movie says a lot about humans, our lives and the realities we exist in.