Ren Osugi, now deceased, stars in ‘The Chaplain’

From The Japan Times:

“The Chaplain” sheds some light on the reality of life on death row, as seen from the perspective of a Christian clergyman. Saeki (Osugi) makes fortnightly trips to a prison to counsel inmates awaiting execution, toting a Bible and a portable music player in case anyone fancies singing hymns. Only six months into the job, he’s still a little shaky in his faith, and Osugi’s restrained performance conveys the uncertainty of a man who isn’t sure he has all the answers.

The prisoners he meets spend most of their time in solitary confinement, and their sessions are inspired less by religious devotion than a need for human contact. While a former yakuza, Yoshida (Ken Mitsuishi), is able to bellow hymns with gusto, the elderly Shindo (Takeo Gozu) confesses that he’s ignorant about Christianity. When Saeki gives him a copy of the Bible, it turns out that he’s illiterate too.

Details of the crimes that brought each of them to death row emerge slowly, if at all. Some of their stories feel familiar, most obviously with Takamiya (Reo Tamaoki), who’s clearly modeled on the perpetrator of a 2016 killing spree at a care home in Kanagawa Prefecture. An eloquent and wholly unrepentant sociopath, he doesn’t bother to feign interest in spiritual absolution, preferring to treat his conversations with Saeki as an opportunity for philosophical sparring.

Read more at The Japan Times. Non-Japanese seekers might seek out a captioned version.