Dear Doctor has already won over 21 awards around the world including 2 Japanese Academy Awards. It will screen on Sunday, November 14th at Innis Town Hall as part of the 2010 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and will likely be a favorite of the festival.
The film tells the story of two doctors, one older, one younger working in a remote Japanese village. The older doctor has gone missing bringing the police to the small town to investigate. As the police interview the townspeople, the story is told in flashback.
In flashback, the story begins with the younger doctor, Keisuke Soma (Eita), coming to the town to apprentice with the older doctor, Osamu Ino (Tsurube Shofukutei). The village is very remote with an aging population of 1,500, and has had trouble finding a doctor for many years. Soma learns that Ino lacks in medical skills he makes up in kindness, attention and house calls. Soma embraces Ino’s ways with the townspeople and wants to stay in the village after he graduates. Things turn upside down for Ino when one of his patents, an elderly woman named Torikai-san (Kaoru Yachigusa), is diagnosed with cancer. He is sworn to secrecy as she doesn’t want to be a burden on her daughter. Ino is put in the awkward position of trying to convince his patient’s daughter, who is a doctor in Tokyo, that her mother simply has an ulcer.
During the first half of the film Dear Doctor has that same student/mentor dynamic that has been used many times before (like in Kurosawa’s classic Red Beard ), but the premise is slowly unraveled into something quite different. The film is really about perception. The villagers, including the young doctor, put Ino on a pedestal and see what they want to see, rather than what is real.
The film is based on director Miwa Nishikawa’s ( Sway , 2006) novel Kino no kamisama . She films it confidently between two time frames without confusing the audience. The film is sweet and touching, but doesn’t fall into typical melodramic clichÃ©s. Cinematically the film doesn’t break any new ground, but if you are looking for a well made character study, it’s just what the doctor ordered.