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A teenager called Noriko Shimabara runs away from her family in Tokoyama, to meet Kumiko, the leader of an Internet BBS, Haikyo.com. She becomes involved with Kumiko's "family circle", which grows darker after the mass suicide of 54 high school girls.Written by
A more introspective film than director Sono's previous film.
A sequel to 2002's cult-status film "Suicide Club", director Sion Sono's "Noriko's Dinner Table" tells the compelling and profound tale of the collapse and reconstruction of the family unit. The story follows Noriko Shimabara (Kazue Fukiishi), a seemingly unhappy teenager who lives with her mother, father, and younger sister. To escape reality, Noriko begins to regularly visit the internet site Haikyo.com, a BBS where she begins to chat with other girls just like her. One of the girls, known only by the title "Ueno54", persuades Noriko to runaway to Tokyo so they can meet in person. Noriko willingly accepts and escapes to Tokyo, wherein she meets the real person behind the mysterious Ueno54 and learns her true name—Kumiko (Tsugumi). What Noriko soon discovers is that Kumiko operates a "family-circle" program, which specializes in taking in young girls and giving them new personalities and families
With the release of "Suicide Club", a film that explored the disastrous effects that an enigmatic cult had on an entire population of youth, director Sion Sono not only created a memorable horror film, but also provided some social commentary on Japanese youth. And while it was effective in what it was trying to convey, many viewers considered it a gory, albeit somewhat intelligent film. Sono decided to take a different route with "Noriko's Dinner Table", this time around taking out the unnecessary gore and replacing it with a more introspective stance. The film is split up into various chapters, each dedicating ample time to the film's characters. While this might seem distracting for a film such as this, it does the exact opposite—the first-person narrative of the characters allow the viewer to understand some of the decisions they choose, why they choose them, and what they hope to arrive at after the decision has been made. It's through these narrative perspectives that provided the truly captivating moments throughout the film, wanting to see the outcome of characters I have gotten to know.
Probably one of the strongest elements of the film is the cast. Since Sono's attention to detail is so prevalent in this film, the cast had to be right on the mark. And they do a remarkable job. The highlight of the film is Kazue Fukiishi. Her portrayal of Noriko is a sight to behold and her transformation from being a stubborn, rebellious teen to an overzealous, rather detached individual is masterfully done. Noriko's family—her father played by film veteran Ken Mitsuishi and younger sister played by Yuriko Yoshitaka—are fantastic in their respectable roles as well. Actress Tsugumi in her portrayal as the chilling and austere Kumiko also brings to mind the exceptional acting talent so vividly on display here.
While "Suicide Club" showcased a telescopic overview of the shadowy "Suicide Circle" cult, which showed the cult's negative influence on numerous individuals, "Noriko's Dinner Table" portrays, rather successfully, how the mysterious cult affects a single family. It's a film that touches upon various contemplative societal issues such as individualism, family structure, alienation, and mind control on an enormous scale. With the release of "Suicide Club" a few years back, director Sion Sono had something to say. With "Noriko's Dinner Table", he takes it a step further, raising questions to issues that are relevant and meaningful today. A totally absorbing experience, I highly recommend it.
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