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Written and directed by Patrick Dickinson, the Winner of Best First Film in Rome has a theatrical release and will be steaming next month.   

SYNOPSIS: After the death of his wife, Kenzaburo receives an unexpected letter from beyond the grave. His late wife asks him to travel to Lake Windermere in England with their son to scatter her ashes. Plagued by sweet and painful memories of his wife, Kenzaburo travels to England from Tokyo to fulfill her final wish, but the father and son’s fraught relationship threatens to upend their journey. 

Cottontail begins in Tokyo. The family drama is good and yet not overly dramatic as I have seen in other productions that can lean too much toward soap opera style. It is clear from several scenes that there is a very marked distance between the father Kenzaburo (Lily Franky) and son Toshi (Ryo Nishikido) who clearly was close to his mother, Akiko (Tae Kimura). Kenzaburo is surprised to be handed a letter by Akiko with her last request.

As a child, Akiko traveled with her family on holiday in the 1960s to England’s Lake Windermere. She cherished her memories and asked to have her ashes there. During the trip, she also learned about the tales of Beatrix Potter. Kenzaburo has been wandering around alone in grief and his first impulse is to travel alone with the ashes. Thankfully he coordinates travel with Toshi who is married and has a child. The tension between the two men is obvious though.  While in London, Kenzaburo is wily as a fox and takes off alone. He meets farmer John (Ciaran Hinds), also a widower, and his daughter Mary (Aoife Hinds). His running off and leaving the family behind is not well received, and Toshi further thinks that Kenzaburo only thinks of himself, continuing to leave him out of his orbit, much the same as when he was a child.

The flashbacks for Kenzaburo go back to the time he met his wife (Yuri Tsunematsu) as a young man (Kosei Kudo) then leading up to the recent pass when Akiko suffered through the disease that took her life. At times, there is no dialogue from Kenzaburo, as his depression takes over and he won’t verbally express his feelings. He says so much by the look on his face and that is an excellent performance.

Cinematographer Mark Wolf provides attractive landscape shots of rural England and the close-up shots of Kenzaburo who is so expressive with his face that can speak volumes.  

Production design: Matthew Button, Kentaro Kosaka, Editing: Andy Jadavji and music: Stefan Gregory. Producers: Gabrielle Tana, Kosuke Oshida, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Helene Theodoly

Check your local theaters for showtimes and prepare your calendar for the VOD release July 9, 2024.

UK/Japan. 2022. 94 minutes

Source: Level 33 Entertainment