"An endearing oddball of a movie, wondering if humans can help each other through the apathy, absence and emptiness of 21st century city life."
Tara Judah, Watershed Cinema Producer
A life-sized blow-up sex doll magically comes to life, buoyed by Korean star Doona Bae’s beguiling lead performance, in Kore-eda’s sweet fantasy-romance, based on the manga series Kuuki Ningyo by Yoshiie Gōda.
Nozomi (Bae), is an inflatable sex doll, owned by Hideo (Itsuji Itao), a pathetic, creepy waiter at a family restaurant. He clothes her, confides in her and, of course, has sex with her. Then one fine morning, she wakes, looks at the big, beautiful world outside and decides she wants to experience it. With hesitant steps, she makes her way through the city, encountering folks as lonely and damaged as Hideo, as well as much that is strange and wonderful, before reaching the blinking lights of a video-rental shop — and the eyes of a shy, handsome clerk, Junichi (Arata Iura). She gets a job and soon realises that the humans around her are as empty inside as she is. Perhaps she is not such an anomaly after all?
An urban fairy tale about an inflatable sex doll that comes to life, Air Doll (like After Life) is something of an outlier in the Kore-eda oeuvre, a departure from the straighter family dramas for which he’s best known. That said, it’s both funny and touching, gradually unfurling into an achingly beautiful meditation on loneliness and longing in the city, providing a reflective look on a consumerist culture that encourages easy substitutes and disposability, even of human beings and their feelings.