6 July 2009 | Jay_Exiomo
Two bottles of milk for a lifetime of bottled-up feelings
Lead actor Yuko Tanaka fulfills so much in the exceptionally meditative "The Milkwoman," a tranquil canvass on missed chances in the life of a 50-something woman, charting her routine with sincerely poignant motives. Played out in the picturesque, tranquil town of Nagasaki, Akira Ogata's unconventional romantic film, so to speak, is less a straight-out melodrama than a deliberate introspection of its characters' surrender to their current lives as a result of a tragic past that forced them to a choice they did not call for.
Perfectly embodying the requisite world-weariness subjected to a spiritless routine, Tanaka plays Minako Oba, a middle-aged woman who, before her work shift at a supermarket, takes it upon herself to deliver bottles of milk among the residents of the hilly Nagasaki. One of the houses she constantly passes by to make such a delivery is that of Kaita Takanashi (Ittoku Kishibe), a local government employee caring for her terminally ill wife (Akiko Nishina). Minako and Kaita were high school sweethearts who, courtesy of an ignominious event concerning their parents, separated ways since then.
Opening his film with the foreboding narration of a young Minako vowing never to leave Nagasaki, Ogata does as such with the narrative, patiently sticking with Minako as he, deftly aided by Tanako's understated yet highly effective performance, follows her -- whether she's having chitchat with her aunt (Misako Watanabe) on being single, or when she jogs up and down the countless footsteps of their hilly town to distribute milk -- as she and Kaita gradually overcome the hindrances that kept them apart for years. Such unhurried development may not suit viewers weaned on fast-paced narratives but for the rest, it's a heartfelt introspection that affects powerfully and emphatically.