Director: Lee Sang-il
Starring: Eri Fukatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Akira Emoto, Kirin Kiki, Masaki Okada, Hikari Mitsushima
Duration: 139 min.
Yuichi is a laborer who's lived his entire life in a dreary fishing village. With no girlfriend or friends, he spends his days working and looking after his grandparents, with no enjoyment in life other than his car. Meanwhile, Mitsuyo also lives a monotonous life pacing between the men's clothing store where she works and the apartment where she lives with her sister. When the two lonely souls meet using an online dating site, they immediately fall in love with each other. But there's a dark secret Yuichi had been keeping from Mitsuyo...
Villain is a film directed by Lee Sang-il, based on a bestselling novel by Shuichi Yoshida. It was nominated for an unprecedented 15 awards at the 34th (2011) Japan Academy Prize, Japan's version of the Oscars, winning 5 of them including all four acting awards and also the award for best music.Looking at the title and poster of this film might lead one to believe that this will be a noirish mystery or thriller but it's not. This is essentially a part romance, part social commentary centered on a murder and its ensuing effect on the people associated with the victim and the killer. It's an intriguing and complex story that is truly well acted but does drag out a bit as the director tries to handle too many branching subplots.
The two leads Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu) have an undeniable chemistry that really helps to underscore the tragic nature of their relationship, but it does feel as though their characters could have used some more development instead of trying to cover so much ground. Not that the supporting characters' stories aren't interesting because they are just as captivating and even better acted, both Akira Emoto who plays the murder victim's father, and Kirin Kiki who plays Yuichi's grandmother are well deserving of their awards. It's just that the central story suffers a bit because of it.
The score composed by Joe Hisaishi is wonderful and the main theme is a beautiful piece that may be a tad over dramatic but is fitting for a film like this. The cinematography was also well done taking advantage of the natural beauty of Kyushu Island a place and setting we don't see too often in film. A highlight is the final lighthouse location with breathtaking vistas that might have been a little too perfectly romantic, but aren't exploited as such.
All in all, a somewhat meandering film with some very strong performances and a relevant social message that raises the question, just who is the real villain here?
— Bonjour Tristesse