The latest movie I watched was When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead / に帰ると妻が必ず死んだふりをしています, a movie based on a manga that was inspired by a question posed on Yahoo! Japan. The story revolves around a young married couple, and how their relationship evolves after the wife, Chie (Nana Eikura 榮倉奈々), starts to “play dead” whenever her husband, Jun (Ken Yasuda 安田顕), returns from work. It’s a really strange premise but definitely captured my interest.
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The first prank death was surprising (if you don’t know the backstory at all), but turns out to be kind of funny, although I really felt for Jun who was understandably panicked. The subsequent prank deaths were increasingly silly, hilarious, inventive, and clever. Those are funny scenes, but they have Jun wondering what Chie’s intentions truly are. Is she dissatisfied with their marriage? Has he done something wrong?
Over the course of the movie, several marital themes are explored, but not too deeply, and the tone of the movie is kept very light. The serious themes of infertility, separation, and divorce were played out by Jun’s coworker and his wife, and even though the couple decided to end their marriage, they showed growth and maturity… and maybe this is a lesson the writers were trying to teach us?
Chie and Jun’s relationship becomes stronger during reflection and also because of the illness of Chie’s father. It’s during a visit to Chie’s childhood home that Jun gets a clearer glimpse into Chie’s childhood and gains a greater understanding of her. But the mystery of why Chie would fake her own death every day remained unsolved until the very end. Unfortunately for the viewing audience, when Jun reveals to her that he knows why she did it and is explaining the reason, there’s a strong wind and we don’t get to hear his words. I think it was meant to be funny that the audience doesn’t find out, but to me, it was just frustrating. I got the feeling that the writers really didn’t have an explanation either, and it was just a cop-out. But perhaps that’s true to the mystery of the original story. At any rate, it was an unsatisfying ending to a story that had seemingly been advancing towards a good conclusion.
I have to mention one major point that I didn’t like about the movie. There were several scenes where the music didn’t match the mood of the story at all. In fact a few times, I was wondering if I had left Spotify going, or a browser tab was open that was playing music. The generic rock and roll background songs were inappropriate and cheesy, and I kept thinking how much better a scene would have been if there was instead just silence in the background. I admit to wondering if the director’s teenage kid begged to have his band be in the film…
Anyway, if you can ignore the terrible ending and horrible musical overlays, then you are left with a fun, lighthearted movie, with some marital wisdom tidbits thrown in. The performances from all the actors were excellent, especially Nana Eikura, who was quirky and charming. Ken Yasuda played the straight man while also subtly letting us in onto his frustration. In summary, When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead is a watchable movie, worth your time.
My rating: 7/10