The Eel

White-collar worker Yamashita finds out that his wife has a lover visiting her when he’s away, suddenly returns home and kills her. After eight years in prison, he returns to live in a small village, opens a barber shop (he was trained as a barber in prison) and talks almost to no-one except for the eel he “befriended” in prison. One day he finds the unconscious body of Keiko, who attempted suicide and reminds him of his wife. She starts to work at his shop, but he doesn’t let her become close to him.


Sayoko rents out cats. Every day she walks along the banks of the river towing her animals in a little handcart, with a parasol to shade her against the heat and a megaphone over her mouth: ‘Cats for rent! Are you lonely? Why not rent a cat?’ A wonderful idea, thinks one old lady, for if I were to buy a cat at my age she would certainly outlive me … Delighted to, intones a father, for a cat won’t mind if I smell like an old man … Oh, yes, chimes in an employee at a car rental company, I really am all alone … Sayoko’s cat rental helps lonely people fill the emptiness in their hearts. But Sayoko too is lonely; ever since her grandmother’s death she has lived with the cats in an overgrown haven in the midst of the big city where all she hears – apart from the cats meowing – are her eccentric neighbour’s insults. One day, a young man turns up from Sayoko’s past. He follows her home and all at once Sayoko’s life seems to fall apart …


Back at school, Ayako and Yukari used to be friends. Ten years later, Ayako is an office manager, while Yukari has a menial job on a construction site. A chance meeting rekindles their friendship, with Ayako even offering Yukari a job at her company. Yet once they are colleagues, Ayako is quick to belittle her supposed friend, undermining her at every turn while carefully preventing her aggression from becoming overt. As Yukari herself puts it, there’s something strange going on here. Were they really such good friends back then? How do teenage animosities play out in the world of work? How long can past tensions remain buried? [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]


After a tragic incident of violence, a bus driver tries to find two other teen-aged survivors, a brother and sister. In Kyushu, southwest Japan, one hot summer morning, a municipal bus is hijacked. In the carnage only three people survive: the driver, a school girl, and her older brother. Suffering from trauma, the driver disappears. The children withdraw in silence. Two years later, their mother has divorced and their father dies at the wheel of his car. They now live alone in the family home. The driver returns to town and takes up household with the children, who are soon joined by their cousin, a college student on vacation. The body of a murdered woman is discovered on the river bank; and the police suspect the driver. Soon after, he buys an old bus; fits it with beds; and invites the three young people to leave on a trip.