Starring: Fumiyo Kohinata, Eri Fukatsu, Wakana Aoi
Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
Running Time: 117 mins
Survival Family is a Japanese film about a Tokyo family who, after a sudden worldwide power cut, decide to flee the city amidst the chaos as millions traverse the entire country in search of electricity.
I fully expected this film to be a moronic, preposterous and irritating comedy. So, you can imagine my surprise when it turns out that this is actually a properly good film. Yes, it’s a silly, light-hearted comedy, but it’s massively funny from start to finish, and nowhere near as annoying as I anticipated. However, beyond that, its concept makes for a genuinely interesting watch that provides so much more brains and drama than I could have ever imagined from this film.
But before I go too mad with high praise for this film, let’s start off with the humour. When it comes to the comedy here, it’s by no means ingenious. The majority of the humour is either a series of silly running gags or various ridiculous mishaps that the family get into on their long voyage across Japan. And yet, as silly as it all is, it’s all actually very funny.
Particularly in the first two acts, when everything is going wrong for a family thrust out of their technological world, the comedy works really well in tandem with the crazy nature of the story. Everything feels fantastically odd wherever you look, but that means that the crazier comedy is all the more appropriate, and as such all the more entertaining, leaving me with a big smile on my face and laughing again and again throughout.
Of course, another reason that the film is so funny is because of the performances. Whilst they’re all very comical and exaggerated, the lead four actors work brilliantly together. The family dynamic is perfectly believable between each of them, and their various personas clashing throughout makes for some great laughs.
So, it’s pretty clear that Survival Family is a great choice for a simple, light-hearted and funny watch. However, what really surprised me about the film is that it’s actually got something more to give.
I didn’t think much of Waterboys and Swing Girls, the two films I have seen from Shinobu Yaguchi before. Whilst one is a decent comedy and the other is just annoying, neither of them had a particularly interesting, let alone intelligent story.
That’s why I was delighted to see that this film has actually got some brains. Behind all the comic madness, the story about the world in the immediate aftermath of an eternal power outage was actually really interesting to see. It’s not a doom-and-gloom post-apocalyptic drama, nor is it overly preachy about our over-reliance on technology, but instead a film that takes an interesting concept and runs with it brilliantly throughout.
Touching on almost everything that would happen to the average person in such a situation, from the return of trading for food and water over the use of money to the desperate need to adapt to living without mechanical assistance, I was genuinely intrigued watching this scenario play out for two hours. The story of the family’s relationship and bond growing is also a heartwarming and pleasant centre for the plot, but it’s the way that the film realistically depicts how people would go about this sort of situation that really grabbed me.
Overall, I had an absolutely great time with Survival Family. I’m not going to forget that it is first and foremost a fun and light-hearted comedy, and so it proves with excellent laughs from start to finish and a fantastic lead quartet. However, what really makes it even better is how surprisingly interesting its story is, and the way in which it depicts a fascinating scenario, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.