Films & Schedules

  • Vacation

  • Hajime Kadoi

115 minutes

Production Company:
Little Bird
Executive Producer:
Ei-ichi Noguchi
Kazuhiro Koike
Dai Sako, based on the short story by Akira Yoshimura
Production Designer:
Chiharu Hashimoto
Yukihiro Okimura
Naoki Kaneko
Kazuo Numata
Teruyuki Nobuchika
Principal Cast: Kaoru Kobayashi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Nene Ohtsuka, Shuji Kashiwabara, Ren Ohsugi

Sunday September 0708:30PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Tuesday September 0903:30PM AMC 3 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1206:00PM VARSITY 5 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

The death penalty still haunts Japan, the world's second-largest economy. As if emerging from the hidden recesses of the country's collective mind, capital punishment evokes and requests attention in Vacation, Hajime Kadoi's quietly intense drama. A sensitive adaptation of a novel by Akira Yoshimura – whose Yami Ni Hirameku inspired Shohei Imamura's 1997 masterpiece The EelVacation enjoyed unexpected success at the Japanese box office this summer. Keeping a safe distance from the clamour of star-studded Hollywood blockbusters and Japanese anime, the film found a healthy audience due to its thoroughly contemporary subject matter. A recent increase in teenaged criminality has brought the death penalty under renewed consideration, and it is now at the centre of a heated debate in the country.

Hirai (Kaoru Kobayashi), a middle-aged prison guard, is about to marry single mother Mika (Nene Ohtsuka), but cannot afford to make plans for his honeymoon. Even though he is surrounded by colleagues and superiors, his days at work are shrouded in loneliness. He follows an alienated routine of strict rules and onerous duties, attending to death row's model inmate, Kaneda (Hidetoshi Nishijima). When Kaneda's execution order is signed by the minister of justice, Hirai has the unexpected opportunity for a week of vacation, which he could use to go travelling with his fiancée and to smooth out hostilities with his future stepson. But there is a price to pay for this well-deserved break, as Hirai must act as Kaneda's so-called “crutch,” assisting the prisoner during his final moments.

Kadoi avoids directly addressing the many polemical arguments in favour of or against capital punishment, choosing instead to approach the deep humanity of those called to serve and honour the law. He offers a sharp yet compassionate observational portrait of lives at a difficult time, casting an indirect light on the human secrets surrounding the death penalty in Japan.

The script's solid construction supports Kadoi's subtle directorial touch, and the nuanced, authentic performances from the leads arouse sincere sympathy and gentle understanding.

Giovanna Fulvi

Hajime Kadoi was born in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, and studied filmmaking at the New Cinema Workshop. In 2000, he completed the 16mm short film Watercolour Photography. His feature films include The Dark Corners of the Shelves (07) and Vacation (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award