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FAMILY ROMANCE LCC Directed by Werner Herzog Starring: Mahiro Tanimoto, Ishii Yuichi People say I’m a bit of a chameleon. Everyday I must play many different roles. My business is called Family Romance. - Yuichi Ishii

This documentary/drama from Werner Herzog offers a glimpse of Japan’s rent-a-family business by conveying a sympathetic approach to the subject at hand by casting Yuichi Ishi, the owner of the Tokyo-based company Family Romance LLC, as himself. Herzog observes the quirks of Japanese culture from a Western viewpoint. He shows his subjects in a deceptively simple and calm manner. Basically, it is an investigation into loneliness. The film begins with Ishli waiting for 12-year-old Mahiro, on a busy Tokyo promenade; he has been employed by her mother to pose as her father, a man who has been absent her entire life. Mahiro has no idea what is going on, and the film follows their story to its bittersweet conclusion, while diverting to include excerpts of other client’s encounters. He is playing a fatherfigure for Mahiro. You will be heartbroken to see an outcast toddler who has been shunned by her fellow classmates due to her dark skin tone, whom Ishii cheers up with a visit to a hedgehog petting sanctuary and the Tokyo Skytree. Family Romance LLC rents out a fake father for a wedding when the bride’s dad, an unreliable alcoholic, cannot be counted on to be there. Another man is hired to get berated by an angry boss, taking the heat for a railroad employee who allowed a train to leave 20 seconds early. As expected of Herzog, the setup soon reveals troubling dimensions. Family Romance employees are not encouraged to love or be loved, though Ishii’s character does get close to his work. The root of the story reflected in the company’s business mantra, is that everything is an illusion. Says Herzog: “You exaggerate the importance”. Werner Herzog is multi-talented as a director and as an actor, writer, cinematographer. It was the money he made from acting in “The Mandalorian”, a TV series, which enabled him to bankroll “Family Romance LCC”, which he shot on video in Japan.

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