Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: A Boy and His Samurai
The last thing I was expecting to find at this year’s Fantastic Fest was a heartwarming family film…and yet, the first film I’ve encountered here – Yoshihiro Nakamura’s A Boy and His Samurai – was exactly that. And I loved it.
A harried, over-extended single mom and her six year old son spot a man dressed as an Edo-period Samurai warrior one day and not long after, strange circumstances place the three in each other’s company. Believing the man to be mentally unstable, Yusa encourages the Samurai Kajima to seek help from the police and sends him on his way. Days later, Kajima rescues Tomoya (Yusa’s son) from being struck by an oncoming truck and out of gratitude, Yusa offers to help the confused – and hygienically challenged – Kajima until he is able to adjust to modern life in Tokyo and/or time-travel back from whence he came.
This film tackles issues of gender roles (in a light-hearted, kicky way) the struggles of the single-parent family (again, light as a feather) while nodding to the tropes of chanbara in which a master-less Samurai must evolve and adjust to societal changes while discovering his true self (spoiler: it involves a shit ton of pastry). Once I got over the dread in my stomach that something grotesque and abhorrently violent would befall the three protagonists (based solely on my cinematic experiences from last year’s FF programming) I was able to enjoy how charming, funny and unexpectedly endearing this film was.