In Ishii Yuya’s Mitsuko Delivers (Hara ga Kore Nande), the 24-year-old title heroine (Riisa Naka) is nine months pregnant when she returns alone to the working-class neighborhood of her childhood and tries to restart her life — and those of the people around her — before she goes into labor.
This may sound like a film idea that would only occur to a guy — the script is an Ishii original — since women in this situation are typically thinking more about taking a load off their feet than striking out for new territory. But in Ishii’s charmingly, if noisily, off-kilter world it all makes a kind of sense.
As played by Naka Riisa (Love Strikes!, Zebraman 2), Mitsuko is a free spirit who believes every problem has a solution — including the problem of being heavily pregnant while the baby’s father, a black American serviceman, is half a world away. Her own problem-solving approach is to first take a nice, relaxing nap and wait for the inspiration that unfailingly arrives.
She also believes in going where the wind takes her, which happens to be the old tenement neighborhood where her parents, now owners of a pachinko (upright pinball) parlor, lived in less prosperous times. There she finds their former landlady, now a cranky, but welcoming, old woman, and the boy who used to be in love with her, now a handsome cook (Nakamura Aoi) in a failing restaurant. All day long he stands like a statute next to the glum owner (Ishibashi Ryo), waiting for customers who never arrive.
Mitsuko, however, decides to change all that, even if she has to drag people off the street and deposit them at a table. Seeing her condition, as well as the look of implacable determination on her face, the neighborhood folks obediently fall in line, but can Mitsuko really revive this dying community, as well as get her own life back on track, before the due date?
Mitsuko delivers Ishii’s distinctive brand of entertainment with raucous energy and, given that the film wrapped just before March 11 of last year, uncanny prescience. No, there’s no earthquake or tsunami. What natural disaster could compete with the force of nature that is Mitsuko?