• Charlie Vogelsang

Yaruki (2020) Review

A documentary film about five women in Tokyo and one man's obsession with the film Lost in Translation.

Initially started as an art film about movement in Japan, Yaruki soon ended up as a documentary about a man’s travel experience in Japan and five different women in Tokyo. A true auteur, everything is overseen by Eadweard R. York. He did the filming, photographs, video and sound editing all by himself on his MacBook Pro.

Yaruki is shot guerrilla-style with no tripod, and primarily uses one camera and an iPhone for shots. The documentary consists of professional still photos and footage captured, and it’s all combined with sound effects and voice overs. Adding both arthouse and comedic flare, Yaruki is a rare documentary that will completely baffle you.

The majority of the film focuses on five different women in Tokyo and their opinions on their way of life. The isolation in Japanese culture is emphasised as well as people obeying rules and staying in their own lane. Polite Japanese behaviour is shown, but the documentary explores loneliness and how people become guarded.

Yaruki investigates the harassment by women on trains and how little emphasis is put on this by them. They discuss the female-only carriages in Japan, but remark it as a passing thing. It’s mentioned as something that they just deal with which is incredibly troubling.

Yaruki has the potential to be an insightful documentary - instead, it's a bit of a mess

Seeing the differences and similarities between Japanese culture and the West is mesmerising to watch. The parts of the documentary with the women are the most harrowing and captivating as you just want to learn even more.

Regrettably, that’s not all Yaruki focuses on. For part of the film, we follow the director as he explores Japan. The only problem is that he makes his journey into a comedic tour as he challenges Bill Murray’s character, Bob Harris, from Lost in Translation.

These moments are hit-and-miss, with somes jokes landing and others failing. This part of the film feels like a video diary to the character and almost like a poor sequel. He talks to Murray’s character and tries to dispute his claims and challenge his movements in the film. It’s hard to like the director as he comes off as arrogant and too cocky; you’ll just want to punch the screen most of the time he’s on.

Yaruki is a bizarre film that combines the beauty and culture of Japan with an awkward stand-up routine. The forced surreal and abstract moments feel out of place in this film. It feels like the director should’ve focused on either the women in Japan or his peculiar obsession with Murray’s character. There are gorgeous shots of Japan with some clever commentary from the director, but they are overshadowed by the buffoonish moments of him trying to challenge Lost in Translation.

The only redeeming thing from his obsession for Sofia Coppola's film is that the women in the documentary openly mock and ridicule him. It’s a shame that the movie is so disjointed. Yaruki has so much potential to be either an insightful documentary or a unique mockumentary. Instead, the director creates a combination that becomes something of a mess.


Available to watch on Amazon Prime.