Film Review: “Tamako in Moratorium”

Yet another addition to the NEET (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) character genre in Japanese film, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s “Tamako in Moratorium” (もらとりあむタマ子, 2013) is an artsy work full of unrealized potential.  Playing the title role of Tamako – with very little character development to work with – is Atsuko Maeda.  Tamako’s laziness in attempting to find a job after graduating from university is juxtaposed with bleak news reports on the political situation in Japan that she watches on television with her single father over many a dinner.  During the day, Tamako’s life is reduced to passing out, eating (and eating some more), and briefly encountering people in her small town.

This monotonous routine continues for four seasons.  While Maeda has been gamely accepting roles several thousand glamorous miles away from her dolled-up days as the central figure in powerhouse girl group AKB48, she can only carry this tale of tedium so far.  In one of the film’s more interesting moments, Maeda’s real-life professional past collides with the one time Tamako shows an interest in pursuing anything, which is to try to become an idol.  (Humorously, she fails.)  A shift in the tide begins to stir when she realizes that her father is dating someone, threatening to destroy her daily routine.  By the time she takes action, the preceding lethargy that has plagued her throughout the story has already worn on the viewers themselves, who are too drained to care if Tamako cares enough to change her life.