The trees are omnipresent in Yui Kiyohara’s hushed and graceful film “Remembering Every Night” — perhaps even, one imagines, omnipotent. They frame each view of the suburban housing blocks where the film is set. They flutter in the sunlight. They rustle in the breeze. They loom as reminders of the ephemerality of life and memory amid all that neatly ordered steel and concrete.
For the unemployed, middle-aged Chizu (Kumi Hyodo), whom we follow through a single spring day, Tama New Town is a kind of limbo where, as one man tells her: “It all looks the same here. It’s easy to get lost.” A planned community near Tokyo designed in the mid-1960s, its sidewalks and gardens have grown worn and wild with age and neglect. The same goes for its older residents, who miss the days when they knew their neighbors. Tama may be a modernist dream or nightmare, depending on your perspective or age; ideas grow old, are forgotten and disappear, just like people. Still their legacies abide.
As Chizu searches for a friend’s address, she crosses paths with two younger women, whose narrative branches intertwine quietly with her own. Sanae (Minami Ohba), a gas meter inspector in her early 30s, helps a lost old man (Tadashi Okuno) find his way home; a college student, Natsu (Ai Mikami), grieves the loss of a childhood friend. Tama is for them, too, a space of transitory isolation.
Ghosts linger, cameras linger. This is pensive, slow-slow cinema, like Bela Tarr with color but less compositional heft or, sometimes, clarity. Behind it all, the persistent chirping of the birds and insects in the trees.
Remembering Every Night
Not rated. In Japanese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. In theaters.