JAPAN 2010 Directed by: Toshio Lee Written by: Satoshi Suzuki, Tamio Hayashi, Koji Kinjo (novel) Produced by: Mieko Fujiwara, Kei Haruna Cinematography: Koichi Nakayama Music: Coba Cast: Takashi Okamura, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Hisashi Yoshozawa, Jun Kunimura, Atsuro Wataba, Mieko Harada, Masami Nagasawa
Toshio Lee’s first of at least two films released in 2010 (the other one being BOX!) is based on the autobiographical book of the same title by Koji Kinjo and tells the true story of a nerd and his wife who coincidentally become what today’s been called “environmentalists”. Kenji’s true love is the sea, especially the coral reefs; since his childhood he is fascinated by the ocean and spends every single minute possible by the water.
It is not surprising therefore that he fails as a professional: he regularly loses his jobs and hence leads a simple life together with his wife and kids. Kenji believes he could do many jobs, but at the end all he cares about is the sea. One day however he finds a way to turn his love for coral reefs into a business: he opens up a “coral bar”, a pub that showcases corals in a fish tank and aims to recreate the Okinawa sea. He calls the joint Bar Blue and quickly develops it into a successful franchise.
It comes as a shock to his family and friends when he decides to close down the bar business and instead wants to replant corals in nature. What got into him? Once again his passion gets in his way and all he dreams about is cleaning up the sea and breed corals. He starts with transplanting his Bar Blue corals into the ocean, but the more corals he plants the more resistance he meets from fishermen and politicians. While Kenji wants to preserve nature others want, or need, to exploit it. The conflicts of interest soon make big waves in the press and Kenji becomes something like a local hero, supported by many, disliked by even more.
His main idea becomes crucial for his undertaking: Kenji believes he can become the first person in the world to ever spawn coral reefs. Nobody has achieved this before, but Kenji thinks he can do it. Scientists quickly reveal his lack of method and are questioning his mission that is driven by little more than ambition and intuition. Kenji is facing the challenge of a lifetime: can he make corals spawn before he finally runs out of money, support and luck?
Forget AVATAR, watch SUNSHINE AHEAD instead. If you are looking for eco-conscious entertainment that’s authentic, absolutely not fabricated and free of clichés SUNSHINE AHEAD is the best choice in recent years. Even though it seems convenient to release the movie in times like these (the BP oil spill came later but once again proves that the movie’s timing is right), SUNSHINE AHEAD has absolutely nothing to do with calculated commercial moviemaking.
I have not read the novel but the storyline seems to stick to the real events as only a very few plot points hint at a basic dramaturgy that has little in common with conventional mainstream scripts. The movie has its ups and downs of course, yet it is going with the flow without being trivial. SUNSHINE AHEAD is very convincing as a movie with a message, but it also remains unpretentious from beginning to end.
Story aside, some of the movie’s footage features breathtaking images of nature that make us feel for the hero and his mission even more – SUNSHINE AHEAD may be a drama but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a cinematic experience. The movie is carefully framed and beautifully shot when it matters, and otherwise leaves it to the believable cast to make SUNSHINE AHEAD a really likable film.
SUNSHINE AHEAD is the best proof that a touching movie with a sincere message doesn’t require 3D. Also, it reminds us that despite the technological advancement all that matters is a great story. SUNSHINE AHEAD is a well-rounded, relevant movie that’s especially valuable for oil company executives.