HIFF review: ‘Kaasan, Mom’s Life”

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As part of a sneak preview of this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival, I caught a screening of “Kaasan, Mom’s Life.” While it wasn’t on my list of Top 10 must-see films, the story of a manga artist mother struggling to raise her two children, while her alcoholic husband goes in and out of rehab, sounded interesting enough.

The film starts off light and comical, beginning with comic characters coming to life, then introducing the audience to two real-life comic characters — the cartoonist mother Reiko’s two young children. There’s also Reiko’s mother, who does all the cooking and housekeeping so Reiko can work on her cartoon strips. No mention of the father is made initially, and the film appears to be a lighthearted comedy about a single mom balancing work and family.

But when Reiko’s alcoholic husband is introduced, the film suddenly turns somber and depressing. Her husband is a former war journalist, who can’t forget the horrors he’s seen and tries to drown out his painful memories through booze. The middle of the film centers on him going in and out of alcohol rehab clinics, and you wonder why Reiko, who seems to be a strong woman, continuously allows him back in their lives.

The film ultimately can be summarized as a family drama, and the performances are strong throughout. But I couldn’t quite shake the TV movie of the week storyline and the inconsistent tone of the film.

To purchase tickets for “Kaasan, Mom’s Life” or to see the full festival lineup, go to hiff.org.