What happens when electricity ceases in the city of Tokyo?
Directed by veteran Japanese director Shinobu Yaguchi, who specialises in “feel-good, zero-to-hero” films, the plot of Survival Family revolves around a mysterious power outage that wipes out every modern service imaginable: from water and electrical supply to mobile phones and laptops, and even cars.
Set in a dystopian Tokyo, the film explores the Suzuki family’s time of tribulation – sole breadwinner of the family, Yoshiyuki (Fumiyo Kohinata), has to play the patriarch role for his wife (Eri Fukatsu) and tech-addict children (Yuki Izumisawa and Wakana Aoi).
Complacent and spoilt in an urban city environment, the Suzuki family had initially expected that the power outage to be over in a day. But days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and soon, the harsh reality sunk in: the family of four had to leave their homes (and comfort zones) in the hopes of surviving through this catastrophe.
Throughout their arduous travel to Yoshiyuki’s father-in-law’s hometown, the film slowly unveils each character’s temperament, and explores how each of them supported one another in times of need. For one, we cannot help noticing how prideful Yoshiyuki is, especially in a scene where he pretended to drink an empty bottle of battery fluid in the presence of a fellow group of survivors – hoping to seem as well-off as they were.
What made the film enjoyable was not just the director’s ability to inject both comedy and his satirical disdain for technology, but also the attention to detail on how the human primal instincts could be put to the test: every possible inconvenience was well-thought-out and chronicled, such as the extreme scenarios of the Suzukis having to turn to consuming insects for sustenance, and olfactory depictions of how unusable the public restrooms were – since the power outage had shut the water supply down as well.
In a world where technology is indispensable today, the film’s overly-exaggerated apocalyptic plot aims to drive this message across: when one strips away their modern lifestyles and responsibilities that are so intricately revolved around the use of technology (including my job to write this review), there is nothing more important than love itself.
However, when the theatre lights were switched back on and the closing credits start to roll, I can’t help feeling the irony when members of the audience start fishing out their mobile phones.
I guess it would take more than an apocalypse to convince us otherwise!
Survival Family is one out of more than a dozen award-winning films featured at the Japanese Film Festival 2018. To find out more, check out our feature here!