Director Kazuya Shiraishi adapts Mahokaru Numata’s 2006 novel “Birds Without Names” into a dismal drama for the silver screen.

Towako (Yu Aoi, “Tokyo Ghoul”) lives with the clumsy but kind Jinji Sano (Sadao Abe, “Parasyte: Part One and Two”), a construction foreman. Formerly an office worker, she now stays in their apartment reminiscing the times with her ex-boyfriend Kurosaki (Yutaka Takenouchi, “Shin Godzilla”) who spoiled her with several luxurious gifts. Things irritate her easily and recently it is the local watch store who cannot find parts for a watch from her old lover. Surprisingly one of the salesman offers to stop by her place and show some products that might be a possible replacement. Seeing the beautiful man in person ignites a spark in her and they soon start seeing each other behind the backs of their partners. Even with the passionate affair from the salesman and the daily support from Junji, her heart longs for her old flame Kurosaki. However a cold chill rushes in when a detective stops by her apartment after she accidentally calls his phone. The man asks her if she knew his whereabouts since he has been missing for the past five years. Now she has a mystery on her hands and must dive deep into her memories to understand what really happened in the past.

Not even the warning from the programming staffer who introduced the film on the Tuesday afternoon screening, calling “Birds Without Names” a “doozy”, could prepare anyone for this vicious downward spiral. Director Shiraishi’s film is a very dark and grim one that will make viewers constantly sway on their opinions of the main cast. It focuses on the concepts of love, lust and loyalty especially with Towako’s constant infidelity. While the movie has a forward progression in solving the mystery, it also goes back through many flashbacks in order to provide answers to some questions on why things end up the way they are. However, it does a great job keeping the truth for the very end, making its audience have a similar amount of suspicion and paranoia as Towako. There are painful scenes of her past of both domestic and possible sexual violence so it is not a film to see if you are sensitive to graphic and mature subjects. It is an absolutely heart wrenching piece filled with tension and pain. While there are no official translations for the novel, it definitely feels like a faithful adaptation to one of the leading authors of “Iyamisu” (eww mystery in English) fiction by having the story’s gruesome details.

To read more on the film and check out some similar recommendations, visit the San Diego Asian Film Festival’s page. Follow Pacific Arts Movement to find out what other events they will be hosting.