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Covering a Multitude of Sins

Eigakobo Harugumi

A Balance (2021)

“A Balance” centers on Yuko Kinoshita (Kumi Takiuchi), a sensationalist TV journalist investigating the deaths of teacher Mr. Yano and his 16-year-old student Hiromi. The two allegedly engaged in lascivious behavior on school grounds, which apparently led to their dismissals and suicides. Meanwhile, at the cram school operated by Yuko’s father, Masashi (Ken Mitsuishi), she catches a pupil named Mei (Yuumi Kawai) cheating.

Yuko locates and grows sympathetic toward Hiromi’s father, Hasebe (Yuya Matsuura), and Mr. Yano’s mother, Toshiko (Mitsuko Oka), and sister, Shiho (Misa Wada), who have all been ostracized by neighbors and harassed by netizens who’ve rendered their guilty-by-association verdicts. Of course, the network’s producer and executive are less than thrilled by the narrative taking shape in Yuko’s report. Meanwhile, Yuko tutors Mei and helps her privately behind the back of Mei’s impoverished, volatile and seemingly abusive single father, Tetsuya (Masahiro Umeda).

There are a few twists to this morality tale. Although we won’t spoil here, now that we’ve mentioned them, you can probably figure out what they might be, given the generous foreshadowing even within the brief synopsis in this review. Indeed, these twists are such low-hanging fruits, the moral ambiguities they achieve feel a bit trite in the face of writer-director Yujiro Harumoto’s scorched-earth approach.

“A Balance” works as a thriller because Tetsuya seems like a ticking time bomb. We fully understand what’s a stake for Yuko, but she doesn’t seem to wrestle with what would be murky ethical quandaries for the rest of us. Does Mr. Harumoto intend for her to be a sociopathic go-getter? It’s difficult to empathize with anyone in the film because we don’t really get a sense of where they’re coming from or what makes them tick, except that they are making poor choices out of necessity and without remorse.


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