Sweating the Small Stuff
Built like a fireplug and about as talkative, 27-year-old Ryutaro works in a garage in Yokohama. He is introduced while walking, and his compact strides, arms swinging back and forth – the grand repetitive gesture of this film – is a physical manifestation of a man forcing his way through a thick fog of a life that he feels is without greater purpose. Though director and actor Ninomiya Ryutaro appears in almost every single frame of his extremely confident second independent feature Edaha no koto (Sweating the Small Stuff) – a film based on true events – we’re never quite sure what, if anything, he’s truly thinking.
Over the course of a weekend (and glimpses of the days that frame it), Ryutaro’s existence is revealed, both in terms of his typical routine – drinking with useless friends, hooking up with a waitress, getting beat-up – and one exceptional encounter: he finally decides to visit Ryuko, the mother of an old friend, who is dying from Hepatitis C. Ninomiya is reluctant in general to show his hand, so their exact relationship is unclear, though one assumes that she acted as a surrogate parent. Almost all the film’s older characters are ailing or on the verge of death, and this societal sickness is leaking its way down to the youth, who spend their free time poisoning their own bodies, having long since abandoned their dreams. (Ryutaro, who still reads, used to write fiction, his friend Yusuke was an artist, and so on.) Only in a few moments does the nihilistic Ryutaro show his anger and frustration – with other people, and with the world in general – and the words he spits out reverberate.
By Mark Peranson