More than 79,000 people went missing in Japan in 2021, down from an all-time high of nearly 88,000 in 2018. The reasons vary from dementia to debt, but in Kei Ishikawa’s multilayered, masterful drama “A Man,” a life reboot and a clean wipe of the past is the prime reason for the central character’s decision to switch identities and vanish.
Uncovering his methods and reasons is the main driver of the plot, scripted by Kosuke Mukai from Keiichiro Hirano’s novel of the same title. There is, however, much more to this film than its mystery storyline: Its treatment of the enduring prejudice in Japan against those with a “tainted” background, be it the wrong kind of upbringing or ancestral line, is at once subtle and forceful.
Ishikawa, whose 2016 “Gukoroku: Traces of Sin” was another narratively complex drama about the unmasking of secrets, also manages his film’s major shift of focus following its first act with no hint of strain, while rightly prioritizing penetrating character studies over whodunit plot mechanics.