‘Refrain’ is another episode in the Tokyo Saba Story Series. When Katuso pays a visit to a detective to entrust him with the responsibility of tracing Manbou, his wife’s ex-husband, he unwittingly opens the proverbial can of worms. Uni, his wife who was in touch with Manbou till a few years back, has had no contact with him since. She recalls their happy times together with Nori, Manbou’s daughter and Ayu, her daughter. When Nori, all of 10 years, dies from an illness, the couple decides to divorce and go their separate ways. Even after the death of Nori, Ayu is in touch with the spirit of Nori; her childhood friend and sister. During her interactions, she discovers previously unknown details about their lives together, their complicated relationship with their father.
Tokyo Saba Girls Refrain by Director Fumito Fushimi is an experimental that bends the boundaries of the past, the present and the future. A quote from TS Eliot that ‘all time is eternally present’, sets the stage for things to come in this drama. The film oscillates back and forth between events of the past, the present and at the cusp where the concept of time bends in the afterlife. The director manages the twin challenges of non-linear storytelling and alternating between the real and the surreal (the human and the ghostly) settings with ease, using only simple on camera tricks and editing tricks.
Does Ayu clear up her questions about her childhood? Does she come to terms with losing her sister and her father and her mother moving on through various marriages? Is she able to cope with the truth that she discovers? Is the detective able to solve the case he is assigned and how? These are some questions that ‘Tokyo Saba Girls Refrain’ addresses.