16 September 2007 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Faraway Sunset
When I was young, I had placed my hand at a door hinge, and without realizing, my mom slammed the door shut. Naturally the door cannot close, I felt no pain and didn't scream, my mom wondered whether the door was faulty, until we both realized that one of my fingernails was completed smashed in. Then the pain set in, I screamed my lungs out, and the look on my mother's face and reaction, was completely the same as that of Noguchi Hideyo's.
Faraway Sunset tells the story of the famed bacteriologist who is known to have discovered the agent that cause syphilis, and for his relentless search for a cure to yellow fever. As a toddler, his mother's neglect had caused an accident to his left hand, fusing together all the fingers in a bizarre twist of fate. Naturally extremely remorseful for being the cause of her son's handicap, she does everything she could to ensure that he gets to lead a normal life, despite having to fend off bullies and unfair prejudices.
If you're wondering if the movie provides you any insights to his professional life, then you, like me, would be disappointed. That part of his life is only glossed over quite quickly, and what's the main meat in Faraway Sunset, is the human drama and personal relationships with the different ladies in Noguchi Hideyo's life. Chiefly, it centers on that with his mother, having her cause his handicap, but more than making up for it, as she is probably the main player in getting to wake his idea up, reminding him of the promises he made to achieve his dreams. The other ladies on focus are a fellow Japanese student who spurns his love he has for her every step of the way, and I suspect this is due more to his handicap than anything else. A good loooker no doubt, but one who looks ugly on he inside. And finally you have his American wife, played by Julie Dreyfuss, but in a role that is pretty much a cameo by any standards.
But what is inspiring about the character of Noguchi Hideyo, even if you slowly start to loathe his ways, is that he's a go getter who doesn't know when to stop, nor is able to take no for an answer. Relentless in his pursuit either in his love life or his professional objectives, he bugs and begs to be accepted, and has a skin that is extremely thick in order to open his mouth for favours and loans, more often than not, succeeding of course.
What I didn't like though, was his triumphant return to Japan. In an effort to gain respect back home where he was despised, he had to make a name for himself worldwide, before deciding to trudge on home soil. And what I thought was particularly unfilial, was that he left the visit of his mom to the very last, after meeting up with politicians, businessmen, and check this, celebrities. What gives? I felt you should give priority to the lady who sacrificed big time for you, and one who has been bearing the responsibility in trying to make things right within her limited ability.
The pace of the movie treads real slow, and told in pseudo-docu style when his professional life is touched upon. As mentioned, the human drama factor takes centerstage here, and Mother's Love cannot be any more than emphasized by the time the end credits rolled.