Dads, in Japan and elsewhere, never quite believe that their daughters are grown up and gone, do they? On a corner of their desk or in a corner of their mind is a picture of their princess at the school play or the piano recital or just making a goofy 8-year-old face. Yes, there are sternly realistic exceptions — and this father of a grown-up daughter, who is still making up lame-brained bedtime stories for her in his memory, feels sorry for them.
One man after my own sentimental heart is Amamoto (Mitsuru Hirata), the hero of Hiroshi Nishio's "Soul Flower Train." A recently retired town hall bureaucrat, Amamoto leaves his home island by ferry to visit his long-lost daughter, now supposedly attending college in Osaka. All he has to ID the daughter, Yuki (Sayoko), is a blurry photo of her as a girl, wearing her ballet tutu and grinning up at Daddy's camera.
This may sound like the beginning of a bumpkin-in-the-big-city comedy, an impression strengthened by the snappy, funny trailer, propelled by Shonen Knife's infectiously upbeat theme song. But Nishio, an Osaka native whose last feature was the 2003 horror "National Anthem," has filmed a more serious, if warmhearted and slightly surreal, take on his source material, a 2008 manga by Robin Nishi. Imagine Yasujiro Ozu's classic 1949 father-and-daughter drama "Banshun (Late Spring)" remade as feel-good erotically spiced entertainment.