Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

LetterboxD review link

We, as people, are attracted to narratives. And what more attractive story could there be than one that features us in the center. This was the unbecoming of Kumiko, the protagonist in this story. She was keen on being at the center of her own story, at any cost.

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter is partly about our relationship with our own narratives. Where does the truth stop and where does a story begin? Kumiko is a flawed protagonist, we can’t trust her, but because of a fantastic performance by Rinko Kakuchi, I was along for the adventure.

Using an admittedly fascinating premise - a Japanese woman was found dead in the northern US, far from her home, and an urban legend claimed she was hunting for a treasure she saw in Fargo - the Zellner brothers set out to explore this narrative/truth relationship also present in the other brothers’ films. Perhaps it was easier for the Zellner brothers, too, to see their story in the Coen Brothers’ story. From this starting point, the story goes to interesting places but the narrative never truly shapes into anything as compelling as the premise. The final act of the film wrestles with ideas about fact vs fiction, reality vs imagination. But we’re left just with explorations, no real answers.

Both premises: the one about a Japanese woman’s death in America and the idea that we all have stories to tell are attractive. But they are just premises, just a question to ask at the beginning. The real payoff comes from the truth. Do we all, in fact, have stories to tell?