Mariko’s husband is having an affair, she’s sure of it. He leaves work early, regularly meets up with a female school friend, and barely pays attention to Mariko when he’s home — or, at least, that’s what she thinks is happening. But it’s hard for her to tell what’s real anymore, especially when she’s constantly plagued by violent visions and judgemental voices in her head.
Stuck in a dead-end job with a pervert for a boss, Mariko finds it hard to find the joy in anything anymore, not even the thought of her young son can save her from her despair. Her extreme state of paranoia doesn’t help her make the best of decisions, either. She’s determined to catch her husband in the act; she calls his work, hacks into his emails, and even downloads CCTV for her computer to spy on him as he meets with his school friend. She does all of this with the thought of murder on her mind and as the film progresses so does her mental instability.
Swaying Mariko is the latest film by Koji Segawa and, for him, it was important to show humanity’s foolishness and our imperfections through his flawed lead character. Chise Ushio delivers an unnerving performance as Mariko, her steely glare and harsh attitude lends her character an air of permanent resentment. Her take on her character’s descent into madness is believable, but it is unsettling to witness it. Segawa has created a twisted marital story that surprises more than one would expect of a film of this genre, and that makes it unexpectedly satisfying by the end.
It’s hard to get drawn into the film to begin with, especially because of the disturbing imagery that Segawa chooses to use to illustrate Mariko’s fragile mind. This is a dark and warped examination of human nature, but given its short runtime of 65 minutes, it certainly manages to achieve a lot. The unpredictably frank story turns the genre completely on its head, though, and thanks to this the tale of a dissatisfied housewife doesn’t become stale, as can often be the case.
Release: 21 September 2017
Director: Koji Segawa
Starring: Chise Ushio, Keita Yamashina, Hide Miura, Hikari Goto, and Tomoko Kato.
Swaying Mariko premieres at the 25th Raindance Film Festival today and will be screened again on 23 September 2017; tickets for the event can be found here.