Review: Ghost Writer (2015)
I was thinking which article would consist of my 100th post here and after lots of thinking it appeared naturally one day before my birthday. It’s been a long time since i wrote about something having its origins in my beloved Japan and by the time i finished Ghost Writer it felt essential writing about it as it is fresh and more than alive in my mind. It was only after i finished it i found out that the writer behind this Fuji TV Japanese drama was Atsuko Hashibe who was responsible for the slice of life masterpiece and personal favorite Hours of My Life and it makes perfect sense since Ghost Writer satisfied my drama lust for suspense inside a river of emotions. Alongside the directing duo Masato Hijikata and Genta Sato, Ghost Writer managed to inflict my eyes’ retina with eloquent or darkening cinematography and a storyline bound to keep me watching until the very end and guess what, i’m deeply thankful for that! It felt refreshing and through its intriguing plot twists Ghost Writer managed to keep my interest at high levels from the very beginning to the very end, making it a captivating experience in the vicious yet heartfelt world of book publishing through the money-making machine’s and the writer’s eyes respectively.
Tono Risa (Nakatani Miki) is a famous novelist and she’s being considered the queen of literature, this doesn’t happen overnight and the cost sometimes is more than one can bear. Her mother, Motoko Tono (Kyoko Enami) was always making decisions for her and when Tono Risa wouldn’t pace with the flow, her mother had her own methods of forcing her decisions unto her daughter through appealing to emotional pathways. The chasm between mother and daughter was growing as years were passing by and at the present she’s suffering from dementia and she doesn’t recognize her own daughter, but this wasn’t the only cost Tono Risa had to pay. Her relationship with her own son, Daiki Tono (Mahiro Takasugi), had already reached the point of no return since Tono Risa had dedicated her life to writing with one deadline succeeding another and Daiki becoming yet another shadow in her life. Trying to make things right and become a proper mother couldn’t blossom since Daiki’s shattered and fragile world was rejecting his mother and he was trying to find ways to deprecate or even ruin her.
Unable to write anymore, she’s steadily collapsing under all these circumstances. Futo Oda (Shohei Miura), who works for her publishing company and he’s the colleague of Manami Tsukada (Nanao), introduces Tono Risa an aspiring writer he had just discovered, Kawahara Yuki (Mizukawa Asami). His arch purpose was to assist her with her daily life as some sort of secretary under the lead of Misuzu Taura (Midoriko Kimura) who had been Tono Risa’s main secretary since her artistic dawn. Kanzaki Yuji (Teshushi Tanaka), Tono Risa’s main publisher, supportive shoulder under conditions, manipulator and lover, had already noticed her writing decline and inability to catch up with deadlines. After discovering Yuki’s talent he masterfully forced Yuki’s writing skills in Tono Risa’s writing halt. Yuki had to sacrifice her forthcoming marriage with Hiroyasu Ozaki (Yu Koyanagi) and her dreams of becoming a writer, even though she managed to release a book under the same publishing company, but this one was just an attempt to lure her in becoming a devoted ghostwriter for her idol, Tono Risa.
And that’s how our storyline steadily goes on as months pass by and the relationship between Tono Risa and Yuki evolves in multifaceted ways as novels, monthly stories, etc appear one after the other under Tono Risa’s name and she receives rave reviews with her supposed to be stronger than ever before comeback. It’s a compulsive relationship as we have two souls pounding as one under the Tono Risa moniker, the one of Tono Risa herself remaining on her throne unaffected by anything and anyone and the one of Yuki who has accepted her fate as Tono Risa’s ghostwriter. They are one and as partners in crime they experience the grandeur of literature as perpetrators from the different sides of the same coin. Tono Risa’s the heads and Kawahara Yuki the tails upon this shining yet so gloomy coin. It’s a multifaceted relationship inside an ocean of various aspects from admiration to submission and from a double-edged friendship to becoming rivals and eventually going on together yet apart in an excessive journey amidst various conditions from utter tranquility to insuperable waves.
Miki Nakatani and Asami Misukawa shine together as the co-starring figures in Ghost Writer. We witness their sole development as characters when the ambiance darkens or shines brighter than a thousand suns with all the steps in between. Their interactions vary from obsessive and collaborative to corrosive and eventually eruptive leaving the audience inside an expressive void longing for the next approach under the ever-expanding and ever-changing circumstances. Writer Atsuko Hashibe masterfully depicts both worlds separately, but also in unity and collision, and through their interactions we dive inside the depths of decline and fall or rebirth and gleam. It’s a world shining on its surface, but breaking to pieces on the inside for both of them respectively as their stories move on solely and in unity or in conflict.
Miki Nakatani and Asami Misukawa are given equally airing time throughout the drama and their emotional tones are utterly representative of their shattered glass lives lying underneath the waves, ranging from the highest mountains of recognition to the deepest depths of shame and vice versa. Ghost Writer is an emotional roller coaster with reason and purpose of existence depicting a whole universe in the not so innocent book publishing industry where a writer’s heartfelt words are mere money to the eyes of the publisher and your fame is his life and his life is more precious than your own. In this journey we have ethical and idealist figures believing in the power of words and we have manipulative and corrupted figures believing in the power of money through words and if your words don’t possess the power to move people, henceforth your pocket, then you are nothing to them and your once renowned glory can disappear overnight. All secondary figures possess a distinctive air and they depict really well their characters in the way they interact with the main figures and the internal, ethical or hideous struggles they face through these interactions and they develop themselves under each and every circumstance that occurs throughout the drama.
Except for the emotionally fortified and intriguing storyline walking hand in hand with the powerful and moving acting, such a bereaving when the lights go out yet shining in front of publicity’s sleepless stare world wouldn’t feel as vivid and vibrant as it appeared itself in front of our very eyes had there not been an utterly breathing visualization of the fragile world of emotions and the vicious essence of ambition. Ghost Writer’s cinematography asphyxiates through gloom and despair in like-minded tones through our directing team’s lenses. The lighting factor plays an immense role through various shades of sullen gold and introspective cobalt blue without forgetting a more realistic approach when the soul feels at ease. Especially when the landscapes dress our characters’ surrounding environment with utter beauty, becoming part of their psyche. The scenery is powerful and alive in front of the cameras, it feels as if the right landscapes had been chosen wisely to pace perfectly well with each and every scene as the camera craves for their participation in the overall outcome. The closeups on our characters’ faces are representative of the drama’s ambition to make the audience dive in the figures’ world and through various angles and perspectives we witness their agony, decline, accomplishment, betrayal, restrained happiness, thoughtful decay and all the fragmented feelings in between in different scales and blossoms.
As Ghost Writer was more than I expected , it is much more than what you’re reading through my lines as well. I didn’t intend to spoil the magic for you, I just pointed out a few of its aspects that imprisoned my attention and held me willingly captive in this 10-episode journey amidst heavy seas and boiling tranquility with the destination being twofold; serenity’s pure face or the utter depth’s embrace. You have yet to find out what happens when symbols shatter and where this journey ends!
When you were at the bottom, struggling to survive, wasn’t there your second self watching you? A second self who was observing you objectively; i know there was the other you. While you were having a hard time, feeling like dying, the other you was thinking this tragedy would make a good novel. Somehow, a part of you was enjoying this tragedy. (Tono Risa)