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In defence of ‘THE DAYS’ (2023)

The first review I read was in The Guardian where the reviewer had grown impatient: “ditch the fine details and get to the point,” he said. But doesn’t this miss the point: the dithering represents the indecision partly born of fear – they did not know what to do, evident by the constant searching through manuals for solutions; the referential Japanese culture is represented by the continual bowing: ‘Yes, Sir’, ‘Thank You’; the slow pace adds to the feeling that you were in a critical catastrophe played out in real time - you grew tired with the operators and managers over the 80 hours; the pregnant pauses; they all add to the drama, not take away from it. It needed to be painstaking and agonising because it was: reality cannot always sacrificed for drama: only one family’s distress was the focus as they awaited the news of their missing son, adding to the all-devouring claustrophobia. Why does the reviewer complain that the same things keep going wrong and that this “kills ‘The Days’ as a drama”, and he is not alone. The reviews I saw were literally throwing ‘rotten tomatoes’ (40% - really?!); some were critical to the point of insult. The reasons given: it lacks “a more universal drama” (?!) and “meaty substance” (?!) - come on! As reviewers we have to be more analytical than this!

Many compared it unfavourably to ‘Chernobyl’: just because they are both about nuclear disasters does not necessarily validate this comparison: this was set in Japan, the other in Ukraine.’ So ‘The Days’ missed “an exploration of the culture of lying and cover-ups.” Watch again, and you will see there were plenty of political and cultural angles relevant to the Japanese context, and it was not just about “a stunning recreation of specific events” – some praise at last! Nor was there acknowledgement of the section at the end of the film that raised the uncontrollable nature of the nuclear beast and questioned whether we have gone down the right path in supplying our energy needs. As I have alluded to, ‘The Days’ is a very different kind of TV series to ‘Chernobyl’ and both stand tall in my humble estimation.

And finally, you won’t see a better performance than that of KOJI YAKUSHO, who played station manager Yoshida, this year.

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