“People who grin all the time, you never know what they’re up to,” says a friend of beer-guzzling, porn-watching, hardcore-show- attending, wheelchair-bound Sumida-san (played by severely handicapped actor Sumida Masakiyo), whose loneliness and repressed rage are about to detonate. Japanese writer-director Gô Shibata’s self-described concept of “a handicapped Taxi Driver” subverts the adversity-triumphing disabled character in the same way Crispin Glover’s stilted avant-curiosity It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. does, with both films failing to convey how seemingly simple men of limited faculties could suddenly become multiple murderers. The more playful yet misanthropic of the two, Shibata’s version is best accepted as black-humored artsploitation, as when Nobuko (Mari Torii)—student caregiver and unknowing object of Sumida-san’s erotic fantasies—asks whether our anti-hero ever wanted to be normal (his reply, communicated through a phonetic, Stephen Hawking–like device: “I will kill you”). Cult-classically stylized in low-lit, techno-stuttering DV monochromatics that pixilate and distort as if the film shared blood with Tetsuo: The Iron Man (and maybe a few buckets of horror-shlockster Herschell Gordon Lewis’s cherry red), Late Bloomer is strangest for genuinely empathizing with the monstrous Sumida-san as if he were the typical disabled lead in an inspirational heartstring-tugger.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 23, 2008