Cold Bloom Portrays the Emotional Weight of a People in the Aftermath of the Fukushima Disaster


On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by a tsunami and the worst earthquake in its recorded history.

Filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi soon made two feature-length works dealing with survival and renewal in their wake. The documentary Nuclear Nation offers intimate portraits of residents of an area contaminated by nuclear waste as a result of the disaster. Its follow-up, the fictional Cold Bloom, uses sensitive melodrama to convey the emotional weight of a nationwide rebuilding effort.

Cold Bloom takes place in the Pacific Coast’s industrial Hitachi City, where Shiori (played by Asami Usuda) and her husband, Kenji (Yo Takahashi), work together in a small pressing factory. They dream about building a family, a dream disrupted when Shiori receives news of Kenji’s death caused by an accident during a job. At first Shiori grows furious with Takumi (Takahiro Miura), the laborer whose clumsiness killed her spouse, but her heart thaws as this survivor tries to exorcise his guilt.

He revitalizes the factory, beseeches the widow’s forgiveness, and eventually, to her surprise, confesses that he has fallen in love with her. The familiar plot shifts through Shiori’s expected reactions, yet Cold Bloom proves fresh and evocative in depicting her changing world.

As she takes morning jogs past earthquake-wrecked homes, the movie’s chilly palette gradually brightens, until the seasons change and relief approaches with the sight of healthy cherry blossoms. Shiori, if she wishes to, can hold bitterly on to her grief, but Cold Bloom makes letting go look like the richer choice.