We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
If director Tsuki Inoue’s first feature were an American film, you’d dismiss it as a painfully obvious piece of Oscar bait. It’s not, of course, but it spares no frames in smothering the viewer in its self-pitying dialogue and maudlin visuals. Nuns on film are often of the thuggish schoolmarm variety—see Meryl Streep or Kathleen Turner. But in Autumn Adagio, the Japanese pop singer Rei Shibakusa is Sister Maria, the most timid bride of Christ you’ll ever see. Sister Maria says very little, but we quickly learn that she’s sickly, she’s horny, and she’s entering menopause. How do we know all this? There’s her wobbly gait, her obsession with a lanky and handsome ballet instructor, and shot after shot after shot of wilting flowers and fading leaves. This isn’t just maudlin, it’s suffocating.