Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
Written by Shintarô Ishihara and Koreyoshi Kurahara
Cast: Yûjirô Ishihara, Mie Kitahara, Isamu Kosugi, Kôjirô Kusanagi, Hideaki Nitani, and Kenjiro Uemura
A former boxer trying to forget his past gets entangled with a former singer who is also trying to escape her own past.
In cinema, the past is usually is a site of pain or nostalgia. And, I Am Waiting opts for the former as the past haunts its two troubled protagonists: Jōji Shimaki and Saeko. I Am Waiting is a noirish melodrama about kindred spirits besieged by similar personal conflicts. Yujiro Ishihara and Mie Kitahara had already honed their chemistry with the prior year’s smash hit: Crazed Fruit.
So, their natural chemistry between the actors is in good order. It isn’t the only presence of the two actors that strengthens the chemistry but the striking camera plays a hand as well. I Am Waiting in the first hour or so really conveys the lostness that is the life of Jōji Shimaki and Saeko. For the first 15 minutes, Shimaki and Saeko are the only two individuals that we see onscreen which does creates the impression these two are the only two that exist in this shadow-ridden world. That is also furthered by an ambiance consisting of dampness and moody lighting. Such sullenness on display does warrant a need for something uplifting like the possible romance.
Though Shimaki and Saeko are at their low points, their attraction feels necessary because it could be the proper answer to the emptiness pervading their lives. The shared character flaws in both does make their connection more understandable. Although Shimaki and Saeko are both melancholic, their discontent at the current state of their lives tell us that they wanto be ultimately to be happy. Dreamers can’t be total cynics. The first half of I Am Waiting might be a downsized simple melodrama. Yet, the somber tender sentimentality it evokes through its emotional immediacy from connecting two tortured souls cannot be undervalued and has lot of heartfelt promise.
The second half of I Am Waiting takes the unexpected route. In that, the melodramatic focus is replaced by a search to unravel the lingering mystery about Shimaki’s brother. The worst consequence of this is that Saeko is reduced to an inactive supporting character. It flies in the face of her role in the first half. So, lot of the heartfelt emotions build up towards Shimaki and Saeko’s relationship is awkwardly downplayed. The poor villains don’t deserve the dignity of being in such a solemn tale. While the change in contrast, is mildly off putting, at least, Shimaki gets to put his fists to good use.
I Am Waiting is a juxtaposing film noir that is on one end, a sullen heartfelt melodrama, and on the other end, chasing an uncertain mystery for the sake of brotherly love. Although, you are left wishing that the two ends should have been melded better together for a greater effort.