Saturday, November 27, 2010

(A Lone Scalpel) The Choice - Samson

Today is the final day of the Sydney leg of the 14th Japanese Film Festival. 18 films have come and gone, but some of the best have been saved for last. We have very different films on the final day of the festival. The historic adventure film about scaling Japan's last uncharactered mountain in "The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones". A Teen romance for the ages in the long Sold Out screening of "Hanamizuki (Flowering Dogwood)". A period samurai epic in "Sword of Desperation". And the closing film, based on one of the most popular Japanese novels ever, "A Lone Scalpel". Spend your Sunday at the festival, before its too late!


"Imagine this: You are in a situation where you could save someone’s life, but in doing so you risk losing everything (and I mean everything) that you have. Would you do it? ‘Perhaps not’, I hear you say. How about if you are a doctor and that person you could save is your patient, would you be prepared to carry out your duty by performing that life-saving operation despite the possibility that you may lose your medical licence and be sent to jail? This is the dilemma the main character of "A Lone Scalpel" is faced with.

Dr Toma, a skilled surgeon, starts work at a regional hospital in Japan. After performing an operation to remove a patient’s liver cancer, something that normally would not be done at this hospital, he quickly gains a very good reputation amongst the town’s people. Some of his colleagues become so jealous they are resentful and waiting patiently for the perfect opportunity to crucify him. Soon they get their chance as Dr Toma considers performing a controversial operation...



This central character initially comes across as eccentric and humourless, but as he spends more time at the small hospital, his colleagues (as well as the audience) come to learn that he is noble, humble and capable. In other words, he is a damn fine doctor and as a human being would possibly qualify as a saint. So it does not take long for him to find his own supporters and admirers. The movie’s title may give the impression that he is all on his own, but while he is the one who makes the key decision, there is also a good team who is happy to stand by him whatever that decision happens to be.

The always brilliant Shinichi Tsutsumi (Always: Sunset on Third Street – opening film JFF 2006, Maiko Haaan!!!, Suspect X) plays Dr Toma. His performance is most credible, and what stands out is his portrayal of the doctor’s determination to give his best to his patients, as well as the intense concentration given to every step of each operation. The other performances are also excellent. Yui Natsukawa plays Dr Toma’s competent theatre nurse Nakamura, while Akira Emoto plays the funny and likeable Mayor Okawa. The younger cast members are also fantastic. Especially impressing me is the young actor who plays Toma when he was a child and has just one single scene in the entire movie. Managing to steal the show though is Kimiko Yo (Departures – closing film JFF 2008, Dear Doctor – JFF 2010), who gives an exceptional performance as a loving mother who has to endure a great deal of sadness.


The fine cast has certainly made the job of director Izuru Narushima easier, but he deserves much credit of his own for his handling of this emotion-filled drama. He has made a film that is touching without being over-sentimental. I was (only) just able to hold back my tears, but viewers who have active lacrimal glands are encouraged to take some tissues while watching "A Lone Scalpel". My only slight criticism is Narushima’s rather clich├ęd portrayal of the bad guys in the movie as completely heartless characters who do all kinds of terrible things and are always annoyingly smoking like a chimney.

Overall, "A Lone Scalpel" is one fine film. The heart-warming story and wonderful performances are what make this film so immensely likeable. It is one of the best medical dramas I have seen in recent times, and I give it my highest recommendations. I just hope more people will get the chance to watch this film. It is in a word: beautiful." by Samson Kwok

1 comment:

  1. I've really enjoyed reading this Blog and found the reviews most informative. I've already got tickets for A Lone Scalpel tonight. Can't believe JFF is coming to an end. It's been amazing this year! Guess now we just have to wait till the end of 2011 for the 15th JFF... Did everyone else have as great a time as I had?

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