Friday, July 26, 2019
Nate Hood's 400 words on A Step Forward (2019) Japan Cuts 2019
This is the man at the center of Atsushi Kasezawa’s documentary A Step Forward, not some smiling savior with superhuman stamina, but a living, breathing human doggedly driven by his faith to save his fellow man. After so many years he’s tired, he’s stressed, he’s become so disillusioned with his work that he even questions its worth with his wife. In a sense the film feels reminiscent of a Catholic hagiography of the medieval European mystics who struggled with doubt and disbelief. Kasezawa’s curiously detached direction underscores this, giving Fujiyabu’s Christian faith only cursory glances before zeroing in on his day-to-day personal struggles. But perhaps Kasezawa is too detached: the film feels overlong for 99 minutes, aided in no small part by inconsistent pacing which might veer off-topic for a five-minute montage of Fujiyabu silently walking through a neighborhood festival watching fireworks. Still, it’s emotional impact is undeniable and the film stands as one of the precious few impartial examinations of Japanese Christianity in recent Japanese cinema.