Japanese films about dementia are by now many and, given demographic trends here, interest in the subject is both natural and necessary.

But as seen in "A Long Goodbye," Ryota Nakano's drama about a family dealing with the dementia of its once-proud patriarch, dementia has also become a common device for having extracting audience tears. Not that the film, which stars Tsutomu Yamazaki as the patriarch, is a standard weepie. In fact, its subtitle could be "the lighter, brighter side of Alzheimer's."

Based on Kyoko Nakajima's novel, the film portrays every stage of its hero's disease, from beginning to end. A retired middle school principal who was once an omnivorous reader, Shohei Higashi (Yamazaki) is early on reduced to staring uncomprehendingly at the pages of a favorite book — and finally eating one in a half-conscious attempt to retain something.