Hiroshi, a disaffected teenage boy, is struggling at school and one day shuts himself away in his bedroom. For the next two years he refuses to come out or let anyone else in. Hiroshi’s parents are so ashamed by what has happened that they attempt to conceal his condition from friends and family. Inevitably, the household disintegrates. The story is based on the uniquely Japanese condition of Hikikomori, which is estimated to affect 1 million young Japanese.
Hikikomori, loosely translated as “social withdrawal”, is a cultural phenomenon in Japan. Adolescents who are bullied at school or feel outcast from society shut themselves away in their bedroom and simply refuse to have any contact with the outside world. This self-imprisonment can last for months and even years in extreme cases (see HIKIKOMORI for more information). Hikikomori children typically sleep all day and stay up all night, don’t take baths or cut their hair, which all ties in with the sense of being dead, unworthy and impure. Due to a culture steeped in shame, rather than seeking help from social workers or child psychologists, generally the parents of a hikikomori child will attempt to conceal the situation from the outside world.
The film opens with a series of scenes that culminate with Hiroshi, the main character, withdrawing from society. Once he disappears inside his room the whole focus of the 2nd act is on the family, principally his mother, Yoshiko. We observe Yoshiko gradually coming to terms with what her son has done, inadvertently helping him remain in seclusion for so long by feeding him and facilitating his needs, and all the while maintaining a pretense of normality in front of neighbors and friends. The father is always away, always at work, leaving Yoshiko and Hiroshi to share a symbiotic, codependent relationship that is very common amongst Japanese sons and their mothers. Indeed, it feels as if Yoshiko could care for Hiroshi in this way for the rest of his life.
TOBIRA NO MUKO (Left Handed) is the debut feature of British director Laurence Thrush and was produced in collaboration with executive producer Takao Saiki through SIZE. Acclaimed American artist PAN AMERICAN provides the soundtrack. The cast is comprised almost entirely of non-actors and the film blends elements of documentary realism within the confines of a strong narrative structure, a style that takes its inspiration from classic Italian Neo-Realism.
The film stars KENTA NEGISHI who used to be a student of the Apple Tree school in Saitama prefecture, an organization founded by Ms. Masuda (see ABOUT HIKIKOMORI) for students unwilling or refusing to attend high school or junior high, as well as ex-hikikomori children.