Maborosi, the debut feature of director Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life, Nobody Knows), is an enigmatic, slightly diffuse drama about a young mother (Makiko Esumi) whose husband is killed by a train in an accident that may also have been a suicide. Understandably shocked, she relocates from the city to a desolate stretch of the coast, rebuilding her life from scratch by acquiescing to what amounts to an arranged marriage. Technically, it's faultless. Kore-eda demonstrates a masterful use of screen space to convey perspective, and a precise attention to every last detail: you'll note the overhead train tracks looming over the widow's apartment in the early scenes, and how every passing locomotive serves as a cruel reminder of her childhood sweetheart's fate. Classical screenwriting ensures every scene serves to set up some element of the next, although at this stage in his career, Kore-eda was still rather too in thrall to Ozu in his pacing and plotting: the whole could probably do with at least 10% extra narrative oomph to help us connect some intriguing dots, just as surely as the film's heroine comes to make a sense of sorts from the disparate facts of her life.
Maborosi returns to selected cinemas from Friday as part of the BFI's Kore-eda season.