Starring: Shôta Sometani, Masami Nagasawa, Hideaki Itô
Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
Running Time: 116 mins
Wood Job! is a Japanese film about a university dropout on a downer who decides to go to the countryside and participate in a forestry training programme, but soon discovers that the job is far more demanding than he expected.
This is such a nice film. Although it starts off on a poor footing with a fairly generic and less-than-hilarious training sequence, it soon turns into a brilliantly heartfelt, and still hugely funny, adventure that works as a beautiful love letter to the quirks of the countryside, all the while serving as an engaging and entertaining coming-of-age tale.
But we start on the lighter side of things, with the comedy. This film is directed by Shinobu Yaguchi, who brought you other comedies such as Waterboys, Swing Girls, Happy Flight and the epic Survival Family, all of which are fantastically silly movies that still have a good bit of heart to them as well.
When it comes to the humour, however, Wood Job! is right up there among Yaguchi’s best. Yes, it may falter early on with an underwhelming opening act in which our main character gets stuck in a small training camp where he doesn’t want to be, but it really comes into its own when we see our city boy thrust into the deepest depths of the countryside, working in the local forestry company for a whole year.
There, there’s all the usual culture clashes between the big city and the boring old countryside, but the best laughs actually come from when we see him a little more settled in, and starting to banter with the locals and get involved with all of their strange customs, to the extent that he ends up riding down a mountain on a tree trunk with only a pair of underpants on.
So, you can see that the film never loses its fun-loving nature, and never hesitates to be fantastically silly when possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s just two hours of stupid gags, because there’s actually a lot more to it, and the reason that it works even better than your average comedy movie.
Above all, it’s the film’s heart that really makes it such a good watch. Yes, it’s a really funny comedy, but the greatest part of its story is watching this young man from the city adapt to a completely opposite environment, and come out the other side smiling.
Along the way, we see him mature enormously, changing from a fairly unlikable slacker to a wonderful lead character, while his strengthened relationships with all of the locals – despite the odd language barrier – mean that it’s a film that will warm the cockles of your heart right to the end.
On the whole, I loved Wood Job!. Its title may be an awful pun (that you may not even have got), but it’s a fantastically funny film throughout regardless, made even better by an engaging and wonderfully heartfelt story that encompasses a young man’s coming of age as well as a beautiful love letter to the serenity of rural life amidst nature, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.