Japanese filmmakers apparently can't get enough of churning out paeans to puppy love, but stories of middle-aged romance are harder to come by. That's too bad: The attempts of older, wearier characters to find space for love amidst the responsibilities and regrets of adult life can make for much richer drama, even if the protagonists aren't as pretty as those seishun eiga (youth movie) kids.

The hero of "Midnight Bus," Toshikazu "Riichi" Takamiya (Taizo Harada), is a middle-aged divorced man who drives the titular vehicle on the overnight route between Tokyo and Niigata. Each time he visits the capital he calls in on his girlfriend, restaurant owner Shiho (Manami Konishi); then it's back home to his rambling house and grown-up children on the west coast.

The lengthy mountain tunnel he traverses whenever he makes the trip marks a transition between parallel lives. As a character remarks: "In Niigata, you're a dad. In Tokyo, you're a man."