The House Where the Mermaid Sleeps

“The House Where the Mermaid Sleeps” – the title that attracted my attention on my flight to Japan. One I was glad I watched under the cover of darkness.


Synopsis: (from AsianWiki)
Kaoruko Harima (Ryoko Shinohara) has two children. She lives separately from her husband Kazuaki (Hidetoshi Nishijima). They have agreed to divorce after their daughter’s exam for elementary school finishes. One day, they learn that their daughter drowned in a swimming pool. The doctor informs them that their daughter is brain dead and does not have a chance to recover. The couple has two choices. One choice is to donate Mizuho’s organs to others in need and their other choice is to wait until Mizuho’s heart stops beating.


I do not read the movie synopsis on the flight entertainment system – I thought “interesting title!”, and hey I was bored…so I clicked on it and watched. I did not expect to cry, nor was I looking forward to crying over a movie – but I did, maybe just a little.

The movie started just like any basic tragedy sob drama, victim was an angel, the accident, failing family dynamics, and whatnot. But as the story goes, it got deeper and deeper, and finally, the climax – pulled my heartstrings. As the climax happened, my eyes were watery. There was much dramatic and trite sayings and yet it was undoing my heartstrings.

The movie touched on the weirdness of Japan’s health system – leading to the hard choices that parents has to make and ultimately, those options meant nothing as either way the child is dead. It is tragic – essentially the parents’ options was to determine the cause of their child’s death. Though, I have not looked into the legality of such cases in other countries – it is still a sad choice for a parent to make.

The movie also taught me about “false hope”. “Giving” hope to others may sound good – but it may just be the thing that pushes someone over the edge. Sometimes it is better to be honest, no matter how painful that truth can be. A false hope, is just that – “false”. It is not real, it is not attainable and it hurts when it does not come through.

The movie also brushed on the rights of a comatose of a patient. Is it right to move, and play with their bodies just like you would to a doll? Making her smile – when we do not know if she would smile in that situation. (FYI that smiling scene would make a great origin story for a horror movie. For a second I thought the movie would shift gear and turn into one.)

“If she were to die by my hands…am I a murderer? If she is dead, then you (legal system) cannot make me to be a murderer. I will gladly bloody my hands because…

I need that affirmation.”

The climax – where the mother fell apart, showcases the various learning points of the movie. In it, she decides the fate of her child – is she alive or is she dead. Her desire for that affirmation was due to the false hope given to her by the people around her – telling her that the child might wake up one day and yet that same people felt that it will never happen. She needed to know – she needed proof. So she gladly accept whatever the system would label her as, because it is proof that marks the status of her daughter.

The only gripe I had with the movie was how it handled that passing of the daughter. Not only was it trite, it was also unrealistic. No 6 year old would be that mature. The scene played out more to what the mother would want to hear, in order to let go of her daughter. The scene (to me) did not play out to be where the spirit of a child parting with her mother. But then again, I have never encountered such 6 year olds. Maybe it would make more sense if I had met such a 6 year old.

I recently found out that the movie is based on a Japanese novel. After googling around, I could not find a translated version. Well, I hope to be able to read the novel someday and get the story as whole.

Overall, it a deep, dramatic story. I am not a parent and yet it touched my heart. I would expect that if a parent should watch this movie, they would be able to relate to it more than I did. Heck, anyone in need to release their tear ducts and where a sob is overdue – should watch this.

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