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Run to See "Perfect Days"

Run to "Perfect Days." Wait, plan to go see it twice. I have watched it twice in preparing for this review, which the fabulous Christina from The Lincoln Theater asked me to do. Honestly, I wasn't looking forward to reviewing "Perfect Days." I'm a WASP. Way back. Mayflower back. We do not discuss going to the bathroom. My grandmother told me if you need to go to the bathroom at someone's home while visiting, it's quite likely time to go home. Watching a movie based on a Japanese man who cleans toilets for a living, and the film takes place mostly when he's at work? Not so much.

It's so not about toilets. It's about slowing down. It's about routine. It's about doing whatever you are doing; cleaning toilets, taking pictures, reading, choosing your one book a week, eating at the same two places with the same exact food, the very best you can, with deliberate focus and appreciation for whatever it is you are doing.

Maybe it changed my life. I'm not sure yet. I might have to see it once a month to reinforce what our fast-paced lives have misplaced. Enough about me; back to the film.

Koji Yakusho, who plays the lead, is a genius actor. One of the best I've ever seen. He speaks through his face and his hands and his movements. Each one is a balletic expression of something. Sadness. Joy. Brilliance. Patience. Respect. His niece arrives midway through the film and we see love, and it's so very different from everything else we have already experienced in him, that I knew in that moment he is a gifted actor. Gifted.

Lest we go weary of Koji's routine, every other character is filled with color. Big, bold color. Crazy. Odd. Deeply pained. Flawed. The color they bring to the simplicity of Koji's approach to each and every day and person in it show us something we need to evaluate as we go about our lives post viewing. How being the backdrop for other lives can be as rich as living a bigger life. Or something like that; I'm not sure I've figured it out yet.

I am not generally a lover of subtitles. I am not good at combining the visual with having to read the dialogue. Don't let that keep you away. I didn't even notice them in "Perfect Days," partially because there are not that many of them, and partially because the communication is mostly one-liners. The lesson? We should all learn to communicate with fewer words, more thoughtfully joined together. 

And the music. American, best of the seventies, music perfectly paired with the moment we are hearing it. "House of the Rising Sun" starts us off as Koji heads to work, as the sun is rising. "Brown Eyed Girl" sparkles with his niece in the car and they dance together to it, without moving a limb. Imagine. 

The thing is, we all live crowded lives. And, the chaos of social media, running around, exercising, living, living, living, has left little room for experiencing each and every movement in our day. Or, at least for me it has. And, I didn't know. But now I do, and I am the better for the hours I spent watching this film. I hope I don't put it on the shelves of my memory, and let it grow dust as I move back to pre Perfect Day. Life before Perfect Days. Life after Perfect Days. The choice will be mine.

Isn't it amazing what film can do? 

Have I oversold this? Nope. I promise. You don't even need popcorn. Just go. Wear something simple and when you leave the theater, take a moment to listen to one of the songs you just heard on the screen before you head wherever, and ask yourself how you can incorporate just one simple gift we were given in this film into your own life.

Review written for The Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, Maine, where you have several opportunities to watch this film throughout the next week.


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