Yuko (Fusako Urabe), a young woman in insecure employment as a hotel cleaner, is unceremoniously fired by her boss who tells her that the other workers don’t get along with her and the company has been receiving complaints. As she makes her way home Yuko is attacked outside the convenience store by a gang of young men. Everyone in the town seems to have it in for her. We come to learn the reason for her unpopularity: following a period of volunteering abroad in a war-torn country, Yuko was kidnapped and later released. Many people in her home country of Japan are unable to comprehend her actions, victim-blaming Yuko for going abroad and claiming that she has shamed them by being captured. Yuko’s father (Ryuzo Kato) also loses his long-held job when his superior tells him he has to let him go due to the negative press and ceaseless nuisance calls they are receiving about his daughter. As Yuko doggedly continues to live, even 6 months after her return, it seems that the society will never forgive her actions leading to tragedy in her own family.
The film begins with a card stating that the film is a work of fiction, not based on any real-world events. “Bashing” does however prove a stunning rebuke to narrow-mindedness and insularity that represent the worst elements of society. Given Yuko’s treatment at the hands of co-workers, employers, and even strangers, you would be forgiven for thinking she had committed some heinous crime rather than having been the victim of one. Her parents seem to be the only people who support her decision and are understandably relieved to have her home; however even they harbour feelings of unease that their daughter has chosen to step outside the acceptable norms of their society. The grim, overcast, small coastal town proves the perfect habitat for such people, who have little interest in the outside world. The bleak, washed-out, cinematography highlights the lack of colour or vibrancy Yuko is experiencing, comparing her situation to a past where she was volunteering in a foreign land. We see Yuko standing on the shore, the crashing waves of the sea representing the geographical and emotional distance of some people from the world outside their own narrow horizons.
“Bashing” is a simple film that packs an emotional punch. The tight handheld camera work keeps us with Yuko as she suffers the ignominy of living in a country that has rejected her. Despite offering a rather dire depiction of human society as insular, ignorant, mean-spirited, and close-minded, Yuko is a hopeful voice in this grim town. Turning her back on the conventional lives of her fellow citizens, she passionately reaffirms her commitment to following her own will. In a moving monologue to her mother (played by Nene Otsuka), Yuko sets out her manifesto, asserting her desire to travel abroad again as it was the one place she could find true happiness. Her simple declaration is a parting shot to the audience, asking us to question the values that shame victims and teach us to be fearful of the outside world.