Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Pieta in the Toilet


Pieta in The Toilet is done a disservice by its name. From the country that brought us Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, there are certain expectations that come with a name of that sort. And the use of such a well-known religious image, the Pieta, makes it sound like something sacrilegious and disgusting. But it’s not that. On some level, it’s much worse than that, because a gross-out comedy wouldn’t feel like a sucker punch to the gut. You’d watch, laugh or revolt, and then talk about it. You wouldn’t cry about it or reflect on your own life (except, perhaps, in a “Why did I watch that?” sort of way). Pieta in the Toilet makes you think and feel, and if you have somebody, anybody in your life who you love, a little bit afraid.

Pieta In the Toilet is about a young man with cancer. A former painter who gave up and became a lonely window washer collapses on the job one day, minutes after scolding a new hire for fainting when looking down the building they were working on. It’s ironic, almost funny, except for what that moment means. He goes in, and then he has to go back. At the hospital he runs into a young girl and ropes her into playing his sister. They both find out he has cancer, the fatal kind that refuses to respond to treatment.

What follows is sad, as he grows closer to this young girl. It could be creepy, but he (fortunately) has no interest in her. He simply needs companionship, as his family lives out in rural Japan while he’s in the city. Their relationship is fascinating, because she is fascinating. He is hard to feel for, except on a fundamental empathy-for-human-suffering level. But where he ends up is fascinating and certainly bittersweet. Where she ends up is just bitter, though that is no less fascinating.

The final couple of seconds of Pieta in the Toilet are the most interesting I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. After a moment that seems to be a fitting ending, there is just one more shot. It’s brief, a return to a different perspective. It seems like it shouldn’t be the one that mattered, but there it is. The more I think about it, the more I think I understand it, about the impact of a loss on their survivors rather than on the loss itself.

It’s a powerful choice, a potentially dangerous one that pays off in retrospect. I didn’t know what to expect from Pieta in the Toilet, and I seriously considered skipping the late showing, but I’m glad I stayed, even if it did break my heart.

Pieta in the Toilet (Toire No Pietaトイレのピエタ)
Director: Daishi Matsunaga
Country: Japan 

Pieta in the Toilet