5.1.19

Air Doll

There's absolutely no doubt that Kore-eda can put a beautiful shot together. There's quite a lot of them in this film, which makes sense given it aims for a fairytale vibe – all slow pans and zooms over twinkly music. There's also no denying that this film drifts intolerably, and no amount of lovely camerawork can save it.

The premise is almost all there is. A sex doll is given life and a "heart", and wanders around the city observing the lonely souls that inhabit it. The very obvious point that these people share something of the emptiness and awkwardness of the doll is made early and often. As with other Kore-eda films, the stress is on the need for human connection. But unlike his other films, which major on how such bonds develop in adverse circumstances, here the doll is too alien to ever truly be able to bridge the gap and create a community among the misfits. That remains a dream she dreams as she's dying, although her death amidst the rubbish does appear to inspire another wastrel to mend her ways.


That incompatibility must be behind the most inscrutable part of the film, where the boy that has fallen in love with the air doll wishes to perform a strange sex act on her – letting out her air and blowing her up again. It it an indication of a sadistic sexuality? Or perhaps a way of asserting control in an otherwise powerless existence? Or perhaps an attempt to give pleasure? The film is enigmatic on the point, but firmer on the doll's desire to breathe something back into the people who look after her. She fails the first time – with disastrous consequences that recall Oshima's infamous In The Realm of the Senses. But her suicide does the trick, although even then the effect seems to be ephemeral. The big city doesn't allow for true, "natural" connections to be made. Yawn.

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