[From September Issue 2010]
Dear Doctor (Directed by NISHIKAWA Miwa)
This motion picture was released in June 2009. It is the third feature-length film by director NISHIKAWA Miwa. She also wrote the script which won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Screenplay. SHOFUKUTEI Tsurubei who is a rakugo-ka (comic storyteller) and a popular TV personality, played the doctor, his first-ever leading role in a movie.
The story is set in a mountain village where over half of the population is elderly. It begins when Dr. INO Osamu (played by Tsurubei), the only resident doctor at the only village clinic, suddenly disappears, and the villagers start to panic. As two detectives start investigating, some of Ino’s past is gradually revealed.
Three and a half years ago, after a chance meeting with the village mayor, Ino was asked to become their resident doctor. He was very diligent in giving the villagers medical care, and along with OHTAKE, the veteran nurse, they even made house calls to conduct medical check ups. The villagers learned to respect him more than “God and Buddha.” Soon after, SOMA, an intern fresh out of a Tokyo medical school, arrived at the village. Soma also learned to appreciate the diligence and kindness Dr. Ino puts into his work and that all the villagers enjoy.
One day, the widower TORIKAI Kazuko collapses. Dr. Ino and his staff rush to her aid after receiving the emergency call, but she insists that there is nothing wrong with her. Concerned, Dr. Ino revisits her again that night. Kazuko pleads with him, “Doctor, please lie with me,” as she wishes to avoid burdening her daughters, who have their own lives to lead. She even insists that her condition be kept secret from one of her daughters, herself a Tokyo-based doctor.
Dr. Ino concedes to Kazuko saying “very well, as you wish,” but in return he makes her promise to take a gastroscopy test. Although he told her that she suffers from a stomach ulcer, he is concerned that she might have cancer, and so requests without telling her, a closer examination at a specialized institution. Her results reveal that she has terminal cancer. However, the doctor, not wanting to depress her, keeps the truth to himself. Then he calls upon his regular pharmaceutical salesman to take the same test, and switches the results.
Kazuko’s three daughters then visit her for the first time in quite a while. Ritsuko, the doctor, realizes that her mother is taking pills and decides to visit the clinic. Ritsuko bombards Dr. Ino with questions as they look at her mother’s swapped gastric photos, and finally accepts the situation. After Ritsuko tells Dr. Ino that she’ll visit her mother again in one year, he suddenly jumps on his motorcycle and disappears.
Despite their intense investigation, the police fail to locate Dr. Ino’s whereabouts. They soon find out that Dr. Ino had no medical license, after which the villagers’ concern quickly turns to accusation. Later, Kazuko is admitted into the hospital where Ritsuko works. There, a man wearing a white cap and a mask and serving tea to patients comes to her hospital room. Ino’s familiar and friendly smiling eyes make Kazuko’s face light up, as the movie comes to a close.