Established comedy director Shinobu Yaguchi returns to the big screen with the fish-out-of-water story Wood Job.
Yuki (played by former child-actor Shota Sometani) bums out in his university entrance exams. Rather than suffer the indignity of immediately repeating his final year of high school, he decides to get a job. A gap year.
Lured by the photo of a pretty girl on the front of a brochure, he sets off to work in the timber industry. So far, so good.
But Yuki’s soft, city-boy lifestyle has ill-prepared him for the challenges of the country. Lazy, inattentive and frightened by even the smallest of creatures, he almost faints at the most minor of cuts, and winds up majorly embarrassed with his butt covered in leeches that his co-workers have to burn off.
Housed with a masochistic, authoritarian woodsman (square-jawed Hideaki Ito from the Quentin Tarantino-assisted Sukiyaki Western Django), Yuki feels bullied and humiliated.
There are plenty of laughs here, along with a sympathetically instructive look at Japan’s plantation timber industry and its rural cultures. Sometani gives a delightfully comic performance as the naïve teenager. And he gets to show his more poignant side as his yearning for the girl from the brochure (Masami Nagasawa) looks to bear fruit.
Aside from some mostly subtle innuendo, Shinobu resists the draw toward the gross crudity that mars so many contemporary comedies. Wood Job is a rare, sweet comedy.
Wood Job is screening at the Mercury Cinema this Sunday (October 12) as part of the Japanese Film Festival.
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