Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Doctor, The Drugs Don’t Work

Dear Doctor

The surprising thing about Dear Doctor is how subtle and effective its overall impact is. It is a film that leads you in one direction only to reveal itself as something else completely.

Dear Doctor focuses on a police investigation surrounding the disappearance of Dr. Osamu Ino (Tsurube Shofukutei). Loved by the residents of the rural village in which he worked and admired by his colleagues, nurse Akemi Otake (Kimiko Yo) and medical intern Keisuke Soma (Eita), Dr. Ino seem to have it all. Yet as the police dig deeper, it becomes apparent that Dr. Ino may not be the man he appears to be. As questions begin to arise about Dr. Ino’s disappearance, so do questions surrounding his treatment of patients, especially widower Torikai-san (Kaoru Yachigusa).

At first, Dear Doctor takes the tone of a light-hearted rural comedy. The story initially appears to be about Keisuke adapting to the rural way of life and Dr. Ino’s slightly unorthodox methods. Yet director Miwa Nishikawa slowly peels away the layers to reveal a rather complex tale that questions whether there is such thing as an honourable lie? Nishikawa also ponders to what extent has modern medical care failed its patients?

Despite his questionable background and ethics, Dr. Osamu Ino is still viewed as a savior by many of the villagers. In many ways, the fact that Dr. Ino’s treated his patient like human beings had a far more lasting impact than the quick assessments that most people receive in the city. The patients were more than just a number to Osamu and this is evident in his tender scenes with Torikai-san.

The relationship between Osamu and Torikai-san allows the film to provide food for thought for both sides of the debate. On one hand, you have the cops’ point of view in regards to ethical lines being crossed. The officers are constantly trying to remind Torikai-san that a crime has been committed. Yet Torikai-san is never fully willing to believe this. In her eyes, sometimes it is alright to break the rules if you truly care about someone.

Dear Doctor is a film which offers much fodder for discussion. My only real complaint with the film is that Miwa Nishikawa drags out the ending a bit too long. At times it feels like the film has four different endings, three of which are unnecessary. Still, Dear Doctor is a film that shows just how blurred the lines between right and wrong can be.

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