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Reviewed by   |  Feb 12, 2024

Third Window Films brings director Junta Yamaguchi and writer Makoto Ueda’s latest effort to UK shores and, after being delighted by their last time-bending film, ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’, I was excited. Especially as many of the members of the excellent ensemble cast from ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ have returned for this.

In the outskirts of Kyoto is Fujiya Inn and wellness area, a typically Japanese resort built on the banks of the Kibune river. On a day like any other, various clients are enjoying the facilities and the staff are busy looking after things behind the scenes. That is, until time appears to be looping back to two minutes in the past, leaving everyone there completely baffled. After two minutes, whatever their activity, the patrons return to washing in the shower, eating lunch or helping with the laundry. This infuriating time-loop continues with each of its victims attempting to use the two minute deadline to come together and deduce exactly what is happening. Yet each attempt to break the time-loop fails and everyone begins to feel the respective stress on their sanity.

‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ was enormous fun. It combined an ingenious storyline with a wonderful ensemble cast, telling an involving and constantly surprising tale in under ninety minutes. And it was all sprinkled with just the right amount of quirky Japanese humour. ‘River’ is another two-minute time-loop comedy, not a sequel but perhaps an addition to one of the more niche genres out there. While it isn’t as snappy as ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ it is once again charming and full of highly accessible whimsy.

The first thing to say is that the area used to film in is breathtaking; it’s been 16 years since I have been to Kyoto, but seeing this made me smitten once again. It’s also wonderful to have lovely Rika Fujitani back and she gets the main billing rather than the supporting role she had in ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’. The concept of the time-loop is fascinating and, like the previous film, it makes things just complicated enough to satisfy sci-fi fans while never over-extending its reach. It’s not a film full of convoluted explanations for the happenings (though all questions are answered at the end) but there is enough internal logic to draw you in. ‘River’ is a bit more ambitious and looks to extend the idea to more characters and have slightly more for the characters to deal with. While it doesn’t prove to be as successful in executing its ideas as ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’, it succeeds in weaving in lots of minor sub-plots into the main body. Quite an achievement for another film under ninety minutes and that says much for the director and writer.

As I’ve alluded to, ‘River’ benefits greatly from its ensemble cast who bounce off each other effortlessly. After seeing many of them in ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’, it felt like seeing old friends again though they were different characters. Said cast mean that the quick pace and outlandish plot whiz along with the viewer happily along for the ride. Whether we get another episode in this ‘Two-Minute Universe’ or whether the first two are even related is open to question, but the skill of writer, director and cast is undoubted. ‘River’ might not reach ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’ heights of loopy brilliance, but it’s another mixture of Japanese invention and wit that is sure to please those looking for an antidote to bloated Hollywood excess.

Third Window Films will release ‘River’ on Blu-ray on February 12, 2024. You can order it now from Amazon.co.uk or TerracottaDistribution.com.
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