Canary begins on the false promise of momentum: Twelve-year-old Koichi (Hoshi Ishida) is on the lam from child-welfare agents, who nabbed him in their crackdown on the Nirvana cult compound, recently linked to headline-news terrorism (and a stand-in for Aum Shinrikyo and their Tokyo-subway sarin-gas attacks). He's en route to a family reunion when Yuki, another preteen castaway from a broken home, starts tagging along. (As Yuki, actress Mitsuki Tanimura is lively and unaffected; her fleeting scenes with nonagenarian Yukiko Inoue give the movie its few indelible moments.) Pimping herself to kill time, she'll take any excuse to split the provinces. The allure of the cult doesn't need to be overstated: Any hope of an afterlife beats this sunless concrete world of wretched pederasts. On the road, the brief emergence of some bickering lesbian goths will threaten to turn this into another movie entirely, but actually marks the last incursion of the unexpected. Writer-director Akihiko Shiota's dramatic strategies are limited to the point of monotony, a workmanlike vocabulary of glum location atmospherics and in-the-mix handheld hustling for when the yelling starts. Any narrative drive gets interrupted by extended flashbacks and tangential scenes, and I was counting off the minutes long before a silly "saved from the blessings of civilization" non-ending.

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