Shady a Japanese thriller released in Japan in 2012 and then by Third Window the following year in the UK. This was a welcomed addition to the Brick Lane Japanese Film Festival. A 93 minute story of bullying in Japanese schools where the treatment gets so out of hand that school children take justice into their own hands.
Kumada (meaning Bear and Rice Paddy) played by Mimpib is the overweight student in her classed bullied by the popular girls and nicked name ‘Pooh’. She witnesses bullying in her class but does not intervene to avoid herself being caught in the cross fire. Eventually one girl goes missing and her case becomes high priority in the news and also a mystery at school. Who kidnapped her? A teacher, a fellow student? Is she still Alive? these are all questions running in Pooh’s mind.
You eventually realise that the girl who has gone missing was also a bully who had made other girls lives hell including pretty loner Izumi. Strangely she is given a hard time for being attractive the opposite of Pooh. Izumi reaches out a hand of friendship to Pooh and they become close friends. Pooh finds it hard to believe how kind Izumi is and despite neglecting to help Izumi in the past when she was being bullied.
You begin to feel uneasy by this instant clinginess to Pooh by Izumi and she even follows her to her only club which is the biology club where she is the only member. Izumi envy’s the love Pooh has for her class fish and mysteriously the fish dies. Izumi says it was a accident but who can really be sure? Was this a malicious attatck as Pooh formed an attachment to a fish, no a male fish?
At a shopping trip Izumi treats Pooh to some mascara which Pooh refutes as it was stolen and she makes advances on her. This left the audience confused, what was it Izumi wanted from Pooh? Or was she securing Pooh’s loyalty by doing pleasurable things as a form or bribery. Nothing is clear and the plot thickens when Izumi see’s Pooh has a bird as a pet, a male bird, Izumi demands to borrow Chuta the bird and Pooh is alarmed and at first refuses but is emotionally blackmailed into agreeing. The next day Izumi makes a joke abou the bento she has made Pooh saying it used to Chirp and immediately Pooh believes she is eating her pet Chuta. At this point you would think Pooh would end the friendship but somehow Izumi talks her way out of it. Mean while there is a lot of emphasis towards the missing classmate and the bullying at school.
One thing leads to another and things suddenly move fast paced, Izumi invites her to her flat, different from her house, their is a horrific stench coming from one of the rooms. They are also joined by another guest, one their their school teachers who Izumi explains is giving her test questions in exchange for sex. Things start to make more sense, perhaps the bully at school was horrible but she wasn’t the one who dissapeared the other girl, Izumi so tramatised from the bullying has snapped and done one terrible thing after another…to a point of no return. The end result is only bloodshed.
Written and directed by Ryohei Watanabe he focuses on inner torment inside human beings and how innocence can be polluted and turned into manipulation and selfish gain. We see the change physically manifest in Izumi through her eyes becoming blood shot and the mirrors smashing as she puts on her ‘facade’ aka the stolen makeup.
This film explores bullying as a real phsycological experience which is shown as more harmful than physical fighting. Similar to the film Confessions this film really looks at taboo subjects and exposes the Japanese education systems flaws. No one see’s the bullying nor goes to investigate the disappearance. There is a sense of negligence.
Overall the film was slow paced which built up to a swift conclusion, every detail mattered so you really had to focus on the film. It didn’t feel long at all, the animal torture aspect is shown to be an outlet for students in a few films I have seen so far which is perfectly disturbing signs of a psychopath. Even though it was low budget and you only see a small cast set in a school, it is perfectly directed. Pooh has many opportunities to seek help but feels trapped in an open world. A great physiological thriller to be appreciated , you will enjoy this if you liked the Audition.