Japan may be best-known for its horror genre, which has admittedly spawned both greatly successful Hollywood remakes as well as some truly awful ones, but Instutanto Numa (Instant Swamp) offers a refreshing change of direction.
The quirky comedy seems to draw from several comedic genres to produce a well-balanced and humorous insightful film that follows the life of Haname Jinchonge (Kumiko Aso) and the mishaps that just happen to impose themselves on it. Haname’s presence throughout the film is reminiscent of Carrie’s insightful narration in Sex and the City. As her life lurches from bad (her budding journalistic role flopping) to worse (her mother being left in a coma after being found in a swamp) to absurdly chaotic (Haname befriending her real father, ‘Light Bulb’ (Morio Kazama), who happens to be an odd-ball antique store owner).
The swamps that inhabit the film lead to what she describes as the ‘gradual erosion’ of her life and are a central theme to the film itself. All important events and thematic changes relate back to the swamps of her childhood; she finds herself reporting on a haunted swamp, she is haunted by a swamp that swallowed her childhoodpossessions when her surrogate father left and even her favourite drink, ‘Milo-sludge’, is distinctly swamp-like.
The implausibility that submerges Instant Swamp is what makes the film likeable; it marries together problems surrounding family relationships and breath odour to create a film that bypasses the opportunity to wallow in its more serious moments in order to enjoy itself. A comedic highlight of the film comes when Haname is visiting her hospitalised mother. We wont spoil it for you, but there is a scene that draws parallels with a well-known One Foot in the Grave Scene.
Aso provides a hugely likeable lead character. Haname’s life is ‘instantly swamped’ but she never loses sight of the ironic brighter side to life. The film’s overarching message urges viewers to embrace life and enjoy it to the fullest making the film a must-see.
Best line; Turn on the tap!
Best performance; Aso as Haname.