“What we put together is the truth.”
What begins as a righteous search for the truth in Yujiro Harumoto’s A Balance, devolves into lies and manipulation. It even begins to call into question whether we can trust those who are meant to bring us the truth.
Yuko (Kumi Takiuchi) is a documentary filmmaker who is working on a story about school bullying that resulted in a suicide. She seeks to get to know the victimizer’s family members. The victimizer has also committed suicide because of the publicity. She discovers that the family is still suffering because of internet harassment.
Yuko is committed to showing the truth. She doesn’t want to take any sides. She only wants to “shine a light”. But there are pressures on her from the conservative news media she works for to make this a simple story of bullying. Yuko wants more depth and a broader idea of what is involved in the truth of this story.
She also works part time at a cram school run by her father. When one of the students creates a possible scandal involving her father, Yuko does her best to contain and coverup the situation. She is very compassionate toward the student, and is trying to do what she can to help. She also knows that if news got out, it would ruin her father’s school. It would also destroy her credibility as a documentarian.
As the story unfolds, various twists occur that causes us to question the truths we thought we knew. Everything seemed very black and white, but soon there is room to doubt. Yuko has always prided herself on her ability to get to the truth. She is able to lead people in interviews to open up and share. She is empathetic to the pain that other are going through. She understands the injustice of the stigma on families where there is scandal.
As we journey with Yuko, we are asked to ponder questions of truth as well. To what extent is truth something that can be fully known? To what extent is truth the story we put together from whatever evidence we have—even if it is not all of the evidence? Does the news media manufacture the truth they broadcasts, and if so, who is in control of that manipulation?
The film also is a cautionary tale about self-righteousness. Yuko’s view of her self as we start the film is one who stands apart. She isn’t trying to judge, but she doesn’t want to be too connected to her subjects. She thinks that by showing facts, she will expose those who do wrong. Yet, when she becomes involved in her own scandals, the moral choices she must make erode that mantle of righteousness she sought to wear.
A Balance is available on Film Movement Plus.
Photos courtesy of Film Movement.