The ACA Cinema Project Japan features the film Ripples, written and directed by Naoko Ogigami. The film focuses on the delicate phase of a woman, as middle-age becomes the time to make a balance of her life.
Yoriko Sudo (Mariko Tsutsui) finds comfort in the Green Life Water Society (Ryokumei-kai), based on the new religious group Midoriinochikai that worships water. She spends her days in intense spiritual observance of this zen-like cult. Despite the controlling nature of this new-age community, its messages are of forgiveness and tolerance and will put Yoirko to the test when unexpectedly her long-estranged husband Osamu (Ken Mitsuishi), re-enters her world and tells her he is dying of cancer. Yoriko has to tackle her job at the supermarket — with unfriendly customers such as Taro Kadokura (Akira Emoto) — her husband’s return, and the visit of her son Takuya (Hayato Isomura) and his girlfriend Tamami (Erina Tsuda). Within the frustration provided by her kin, Yoriko befriends a colleague from work, janitor Mizuki (Hana Kino), whose situation helps her find a new perspective on her own life.
In Ripples good and evil coexist within Yoriko, as she desperately tries to seek harmony. It feels easier to support those who do not belong to her familial sphere. On one side she helps a co-worker and the homeless, on the other she struggles to decide whether to pay for husband’s cancer-treatment. She loves her son and prepares his favourite dishes, yet she can’t stand to see him with a disabled partner.
The film alternates mayhem with entertainment, through surrealistic instants that intensify the mundane struggles. Ripples intertwines the troubles of Yoriko with the way the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant power crisis affected the people living in the surrounding area. The film’s Green Life Water Society does not differ from real groups that sold bottles of water claiming that it would purify radiation. Hence, the picture delves deep into how dogmas can destroy a person’s grip on reality and how our actions create a domino effect.
Director Naoko Ogigami majestically captures the ripple effect, that occurs when an initial disturbance to a system propagates outwards to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the system. The metaphor of water is present also in the visual representation of the motion picture. There are cinematic moments that evoke Jeet Kune Do, the hybrid martial art conceived and practiced by Hong-Kong-American martial artist Bruce Lee, who once said: “You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Yoriko’s peaceful cult, uses similar allegories such as “Each one of us is like these drops, without these drops there would be no ripples.” Yoriko embraces the positive-mantras and finds solace in her Japanese dry garden (Karesansui). Every days she tends to the white sand in her yard to escape the chaos in her soul.
Through the life of one woman, and those who interact with her, Naoko Ogigami shows the challenge of an individual fighting a personal battle against the world and against her own darkness. Yoriko is the epitome of the attempt to contain the ripples of our musings that affect the ocean of our minds.
Final Grade: B