Remembering Every Night: To Simply Exist / Available On Streaming Rental or Purchase


Everyone has a story to tell in Remembering Every Night, the second feature from promising Japanese filmmaker Yui Kiyohara. When one of the main characters has an interaction with an elderly woman, the camera follows the latter inside her house after the interaction ends, almost as if to say, “I wish I could tell her story, too”. 

Chizu (Kumi Hyodo) is a recently unemployed woman who is slowly appreciating the value of having time on her hands. She tries to use this to connect with the world, but the world doesn’t seem to be too keen on reciprocating her feelings. She sees a couple of kids trying to get a ball from a tree, so she climbs to try to help them, but they find her too weird and abandon her with the ball up in the tree. She sees a girl dancing in the park and starts trying to imitate her movements. The girl quickly packs up and leaves. 

That girl ends up being the next main character, Natsu (Ai Mikami), a young college student who is grieving the loss of a friend. 

These seamless transitions happen often throughout the story. The film works best when it’s doing just that: making very thoughtful decisions that feel like they were always meant to happen. All is done with warmth and humor. Every time a new character is introduced, it’s the person in the frame you least expect. Every single person in front of the camera could be the subject of the next 20 minutes of the film, and there is no way to know who beforehand. 

From her strange interaction with Chizu, Natsu rides her bike to the house of her late friend’s mother. The mother, doing her best to uplift Natsu, asks her about her school and tries to drift away from discussions about death. Natsu is clearly having a hard time, as it is the anniversary of her friend’s passing. She offers the mom a receipt for photos that her son had taken but which were never developed. The mom kindly refuses, and Natsu goes to a film lab to get the photos developed herself. 

The film works best when it’s doing just that: making very thoughtful decisions that feel like they were always meant to happen. All is done with warmth and humor.

The way the characters cross paths also often happens indirectly. When Natsu gets to the film lab, the employee who helps her ends up being the next character’s partner. But for the most part, this is a film about learning how to exist alone. The setting in Tama New Town, a commuter town outside of Tokyo, accentuates this. The town is big by size but small by who’s in it and what there is to do. The director grew up in Tama New Town, describing it in her director statement as a place where “apartment blocks and parks seem to extend infinitely, with no way out of the surroundings in sight.”

“There is an artificial uniformity to the city’s scenery that lends it the impression of a manufactured movie set,” she adds. 

Tama New Town provides a great backdrop for portraying the solitary journeys of the three women. The building blocks look like they should be full of people and house thriving communities, but they end up functioning more as obstacles towards people getting together. 

Sanae (Minami Ohba), who spends most of the film dressed in a Wes Anderson-esque gas inspector uniform, is the third character. Beyond taking readings of the residents’ gas consumption, her job consists of interacting with the elderly in the community. On this particular day, she learns that a neighborhood favorite, Mr. Takada (Tadashi Okujno), has gone missing while on his walk. The lady who tells her insists she also takes some mandarins with her home.

Anyone looking for a plot will find none here. The seamless transitions between the characters give the feeling that the film could have kept going for another 20 hours, which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. In Remembering Every Night, characters don’t fit the mold of any pre-defined cinematic role; they simply exist. Their existence is what the film is about. 

Not all the stories end up being as thoroughly woven as each other, with the story of the youngest, Natsu, feeling like the weaker link. But perhaps this was intentional, to portray how lost she is trying to process grief at such a young age. 

Still, Remembering Every Night is a warm and fun take on how different generations exist in a city meant to be a giant dorm room—how even if they live in the fringes of a place as big as Tokyo, their memories, their aspirations, and their interactions make for stories well worth telling. 

Read our exclusive Q&A with Kiyohara Yui here.

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