Document type
29 May 2001
Format viewed

Acacia Walk

picture: Acacia Walk (2001)picture: Acacia Walk (2001)

Original title
Akashia No Michi
Alternative title
Path of Acacias
  • Misako WATANABE
  • Tetta SUGIMOTO
Running time
90 mins.

picture: Acacia Walk (2001)

Tom Mes

Directed by George (or Joji) Matsuoka, Acacia Walk is the third film to come out of the training program of the Film School of Tokyo, following Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Barren Illusion (Oinaru Genei) and Akihiko Shiota's Don't Look Back (Dokomademo Iko, both 1999). The majority of positions in the crew were taken by students and producer on all three films was Hiroko Matsuda, a former magazine editor who entered filmmaking when she was asked by Makoto Shinozaki to produce his debut feature Okaeri.

Acacia Walk is very similar to Okaeri, in that it's one of the few Japanese films to deal with the subject of mental illness in a way that is sincere, serious and devoid of sentimentality. The story concerns Miwako, a young woman who returns to her mother's home after years of absence. Her mother Kanako, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, is none too happy to see her return. As the daughter moves back in with her mother, the situation is uneasy from the start and tensions increase quickly. For Miwako, returning to her childhood home brings back dark memories of the very strict upbringing her mother subjected her to. As a child she would prefer to sit alone in the shed than be around her mother at home. It soon becomes clear that these experiences have left their mark on Miwako's psyche. As her mother's condition gradually worsens, Miwako's behavior towards her becomes increasingly motivated by frustration and anger, to the point of being violent.

The film touches the core of how difficult it must be for an adult to see a parent mentally deteriorate to the level of a child. By making Kanako a figure who exudes an untouchable aura of authority, director Matsuoka intensifies this all the more. For the character of Miwako, it is a reversal of the rigid roles of authority which have dominated her life and which she has never come to terms with. As a result, she has no idea how to deal with them and this brings on her extreme behavior.

Acacia Walk is at turns harrowing and touching. Matsuoka, aided by the terrific performances of Natsukawa and Watanabe, refuses to let his characters become one-dimensional, creating a film which is incredibly poignant and which carries a great emotional richness.