To The Ends Of The Earth is a delightful little film from director and director Kiyoshi Kurosawa that really examines loneliness. Atsuko Maeda plays Yoko, a presenter on a Japanese TV travel show. She’s on location in Uzbekistan where her and her small crew are trying to shoot an episode exploring the country.
The travel they’re making mostly seems to consist of putting Yoko into slightly tricky situations and banking on her on-screen effervescence to make something of it. Think of a poorly produced Blue Peter travelogue.
The all-male crew don’t really have a great deal of interest in Yoko at first. It’s just another job. The director is especially disinterested, using the show only as a vehicle to find something more worthwhile to make. Only the junior soundman has any kind of empathy with her.
In one scene Yoko is forced to ride a rickety fairground ride multiple times – to make sure they capture the shot – despite the protestations of the ride’s manager who says that it’s not safe for younger people or for anyone to go through it multiple times.
When not shooting the show, Yoko has hours of spare time, spent either in her hotel room where the instant messages her boyfriend, a firefighter based in Tokyo. Other times she goes out and wanders the towns and cities she finds herself in. But she’s lost – sometimes physically, and sometimes metaphorically. Since only the fixer the crew are working with has both Uzbek and Japanese language skills, she’s very much on her own, as she explores.
There’s a dreamlike quality to these sequences, especially one in which she finds a theatre, and we get fantasy sequences that make use of Maeda’s singing skills (she’s also a J-pop star).
The kind of film you’re only likely to see at a festival or perhaps on a streaming service like Mubi, I really enjoyed this.