Movie Review: “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” (2016) ★★★★★

Why can’t happiness last forever? Why can’t kindness be limitless? And why there are not many movies like “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” to enjoy during movie nights? With a running time of almost three hours, this masterpiece, delivered by the legendary Japanese director Shunji Iwai, left me disappointed that it ended so quickly.

The film follows Nanami (Haru Kuroki) – a young teacher, whose life is about to change. On a new social network, she receives a message from Tetsuya – a young man from a very successful family. Soon, the two start dating.  And after some time, the couple decides to tie the knots. But there is a problem – Tetsuya asks his bride to invite more guests to their wedding. Not wanting to disappoint her husband-to-be, Nanami asks for her online friend Amuro’s (Gô Ayano)  (Cocco) help. The help indeed arrives, yet in quite an interesting form…

The guests turn out to be actors, hired by Amuro. They perform their part perfectly. However, Tetsuya’s mother finds out about Nanami’s little trick. On top of that, the mother-in-law accuses her of adultery and forces her son to divorce her. Kicked out of the house, Nanami finds a room in the hotel, where she soon also finds a job as a maid. Amuro manages to find Nanami and tells her the truth about her broken marriage. Still, he does not tell the whole truth. Trying to help her out in her desperate situation, Amuro offers Nanami a job of a maid in a big mansion, which has only one occupant. Soon, Nanami will realize that nothing comes so easily. Her eyes will be opened to a new world, where she will make new friends and leave in the past the life she lived until now.

“A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” has a complex plot. The narrative is so difficult and complicated, it’s better to watch it instead of reading any reviews – whether positive or not. The first part of the film could be quite puzzling and even shocking to comprehend. Nanami appears so naïve that even a child can fool her (no offense intended here). As you watch her story develop, you start thinking what else could happen to her and how she can survive in such dire circumstances she has found herself in. The second part of the film will leave all those questions behind. You stop questioning her abilities. Amuro’s actions can seem disturbing at first, however, at some point, he will be able to find redemption in the viewer’s eyes.

For me, the second part of the film is the most exciting. Nanami meets Mashiro – an actress who works as a maid together with Nanami in the mansion. What happens later is mind-blowing. Every time Mashiro returns home from work, she looks tired and almost unconscious. As the question arises about her ability to fulfill her duty as a maid, you wonder whether Nanami will have to work for two now? And still, Nanami knows nothing about the most important responsibility she is to fulfill – to become a bride for Van Winkle. And furthermore, she is yet to find out who that person is and why that individual has requested Nanami’s presence.

“A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” is an extraordinary film by all means. It is wicked, intelligent, sometimes funny but not so much. The humor here is pretty dark and dangerous. As I am struggling to keep the best part of the film unspoiled for the reader, there is one thing you should know – the twisted finale, its logical conclusion and how life changes when you start looking at certain things from a different perspective. Not many are brave enough to offer that view. In the end, you won’t be searching for another film to escape the reality. No matter how hard we try, that won’t happen and this film is here to prove that. It also provides a workaround, that luckily or not, many won’t be able to be committed to.

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