Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, David Zellner
Director: David Zellner
Running Time: 105 mins
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is an American film about a depressed Japanese woman who becomes convinced that the treasure from the movie Fargo is real, and so sets out to claim the money for herself on an epic journey.
This is definitely one of the weirder films you’ll see this year, with both a darkly funny and deeply dramatic atmosphere, but a story and a central performance that will absolutely wow you.
The story of this woman, Kumiko, is a very in-depth and fully engrossing one. It’s not until over halfway through the film that the main plot about searching for the treasure kicks into action, so the first period is more a character study of the depressed young woman living out a dull life in Tokyo.
However, don’t let that rather downbeat image make you think that it’s not an interesting story, because Kumiko’s character is fascinating. You’re constantly on your toes thinking about her, whether she’s the one who’s mad and weird, or whether it’s everyone and everything around her that has driven her to this strange obsession. Whatever it is, however, it’s a thrillingly intriguing story.
And even before we learn about the fate of her voyage to discover the treasure, there’s still a lot of heart and emotion in the first part of this film. From her relationship with her boss to that with her pet rabbit, this is at times a very hard-hitting and emotionally powerful film, but one with such genuine originality and intelligence that it’s hard to not be sucked in by its odd charm.
In terms of the principal story about setting out to Fargo, it’s a lot of fun. Seeing this woman go on an insane journey is properly entertaining to follow along to, and despite the relatively patient speed at which the story develops, it’s massively engaging and enjoyable.
Despite that, however, the story manages to take an even darker, more desperate turn in the latter half of the plot, as it looks at this woman’s obsession in a clearer way, as we see her true morals and attitudes towards others in comparison to her downbeat persona back in Tokyo, which makes her character all the more intriguing.
Rinko Kikuchi, who plays Kumiko, is absolutely fantastic too. Her performance is incredibly understated and quiet, yet she commands a great screen presence and turns a very strange character into an immensely likeable and supportable one, transforming the often depressing story into an inspiring one.
Finally, the cinematography here is absolute brilliant to watch. Kumiko stands out on screen due to her vibrantly coloured clothes, the scenery of Tokyo shines and mirrors the emotion at each point in the story perfectly, whilst the portrayal of the snowy landscape of Minnesota is the most beautiful to look at, showing a harsh wilderness where this woman is truly lost, and may never be found by herself or anyone else.
Overall, this gets an 8.6 from me, because it’s not only a fascinatingly intriguing character study, but it’s also a quirky story with a lot of heart that will thoroughly engross you from start to finish.