Kotoko is a single mother who spends her life in constant fear of the world around her. She suffers from nightmarish mental problems resulting in horrifying figments of her imagination which leads to her routinely performing acts of self-mutilation as if to simply test if she is still alive. Obviously this type of condition is no place for a child, so Kotoko's sister is awarded custody. Shinya Tsukamoto's Kotoko is a raw, yet deeply respectful look at mental illness that is more emotionally resonant and interesting than the majority of the films dealing with the subject matter. Tsukamoto is certainly a divisive filmmaker but his highly kinetic style of filmmaking actually fits this subject matter quite well. The films greatest strength is how it plays with the viewers perception, putting us directly in Kotoko's point-of-view which results in making it very hard at times to understand what is real and what is merely in this fragile characters head-space. In fact, Kotoko does such a good job that the viewer themselves begins to feel mentally unstable themselves, horrified as to if what they are seeing is real or a figment of Kotoko's condition. The digital photography of Kotoko certainly leaves something to be desired in terms of basic aesthetic but it's apparent that this was more a monetary decision. That isn't to say that Kotoko isn't beautifully shot, it is, featuring compositions that both elicit feelings of horror, sadness and joy. It's a meditative experience a rather unique concept for a Tsukamoto film. Kotoko is not a character which many viewers will "like" but the film does a great job at showing the unequivocal love she has for her child, even if it isn't safe for her child to be with her. There is no denying that Shinya Tsukamoto's Kotoko is an incredibly difficult film to watch, full of scenes that are simply hard to experience, yet Kotoko has such great respect for its troubled protagonist that in doing so it is able to paint a beautiful, genuine, and tragic portrait of mental illness.
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