Miko Girl 巫女 (2018) - Japan
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
This is a slow-burner coming of age film that shows how a young immature girl grows up and find herself within a Japanese temple as a “Miko Girl”. Director Su-yeon Gu purposely pace the film allowing the characters to slowly get into their roles and translating on screen the evolution and change. What makes the film more enjoyable than it should be, is largely due to the journey that the audience become invested in and by the end of the film the characters grew and we are inspired during the process. It is that kind of film.
Alice Hirose headlines as the spoiled “Miko Girl” whose father (played by veteran Taiki Yamaguchi) is the head of the temple. Hirose clearly does not want to become a “Miko Girl” and becomes a rebel including ignoring all the required basics of the role. All these change as the single mother’s child comes to the temple and Hirose is forced to be his caretaker. I enjoyed being the audience slowly witnessing her growth and her unorthodox manner to teach the rebellious child as she sees the mirror image of her own childhood. It forced her to reflect her own truth with her long lost mother and confront the demons that have foreshadowed her. Taiki Yamaguchi produces an understated performance as the loving father whose largely hide his emotions till the finale.
All in all, “Miko Girl” is the kind of the film that uses the “show not tell” principle particularly well. We see how situations and moments in life that impact us significantly, but we all have a choice to make. The film if handled by a lesser director, could easily have been corny and unbelievable, but we believed in Hirose change and by the end of the film, we are refreshed by it all.
I rated it 8/10