Kumiko (USA)

2014 USA

SUNDAY 10 December 10.00 am
TUESDAY 12 December 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 105 minutes


Kumiko lives a shy and solitary life in a cramped Tokyo apartment shared only with her beloved pet rabbit, Bunzo. Increasingly isolated and constantly browbeaten by her mother, Kumiko devotes all her spare time to compulsive viewings of the Coen’s Brothers’ classic Fargo. It’s not so much the film that fascinates her but the suitcase of cash buried beneath the snow. Kumiko sets out on a life changing odyssey to claim it!


The real-life story that inspired Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was too good to be completely true, but that doesn’t diminish the film, a delicate, haunting study of a woman who has in several senses lost her way.

Rinko Kikuchi, nominated for a supporting-actress Oscar for Babel, does lovely work as the title character, a Japanese woman who gets the disastrously incorrect idea that the Coen brothers’ movie Fargo depicts a true story. It’s an easy mistake to make for those not acquainted with the Coens’ wit; after all, that movie starts out with the words “This is a true story.”

In any case, Kumiko gets addicted to watching a battered, grainy videotape of Fargo that she finds buried in a mysterious opening scene, and she becomes convinced that her destiny is to go to North Dakota and dig up the case full of cash that Steve Buscemi’s character buries near the film’s end.

Kumiko, written by another pair of sibling filmmakers, David and Nathan Zellner (with David directing), follows this journey in all its frozen, aching misguidedness. But a strength of the film is that, before Kumiko ever gets on a plane for the United States, we see a significant slice of her life in Tokyo, enough to realize that this is a woman who is slowly losing her grip on reality.

Kumiko, who is 29, works an impersonal job where her boss treats her dismissively, but in her fantasies she is beginning to see herself as a treasure hunter. “I am like a Spanish conquistador,” she tells the security guard at a library where she tries to learn more about North Dakota. Ms Kikuchi has already made your heart ache by the time Kumiko embarks on her trip, especially with scenes in which her character puzzles over what to do with her pet rabbit.

Speaking no English, Kumiko struggles once she reaches the Minneapolis airport and ventures into the frigid outdoors. “This is not the right time of year to go sightseeing,” a well-meaning woman tells her, one of several strangers who extend courtesies to the obviously confused woman. Most memorable of these is a sheriff’s deputy (played by David Zellner) who goes out of his way to try to help her, albeit clumsily. These kindnesses of strangers contrast with the landscape, which is beautiful but vast and inhospitable.

The tale is drawn from a story that began circulating after a Japanese woman was found dead in Minnesota in 2001. The idea that she was searching for the Fargo money turned out to be an urban legend — suicide fuelled by a romantic disappointment is suspected — but the Zellners decided to stick with the yarn.

Source: www.nytimes.com Neil Genzlinger 17/3/2015 – Edited extracts / accessed 19/4/2017.