Hit filmmaker Keishi Otomo takes a break from the "Rurouni Kenshin" series with this uncharacteristically muted drama, set in the director's native Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, before and after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. That disaster exacted a terrible loss of life, but "Beneath the Shadow" wonders if some of those who went missing may in fact have chosen to do so.

In the wake of the tragedy, pharmaceutical company employee Shuichi Konno (Go Ayano) learns that his estranged friend, Norihiro Hiasa (Ryuhei Matsuda), has vanished. When a co-worker flippantly remarks that the latter may be dead, Shuichi's flustered reaction is hard to read: Is he just upset, or does he have something to hide?

This sense of intrigue dissipates as the film skips back 18 months, and reveals in leisurely detail how the two men's passive-aggressive bromance developed.