Busan Film Review: ‘The Man From the Sea’

The story of a nude dude who washes ashore and into the lives of four young documentary filmmakers, Kôji Fukada’s “The Man From the Sea” probably wouldn’t be of much interest beyond Asian audiences if not for the fact that its director earned the Jury Prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard for his previous feature, “Harmonium.” This featherweight follow-up — which feels almost like a live-action manga, more concerned with the romantic entanglements of its central quartet than with the magical stranger referenced in its title — doesn’t necessarily belong on the festival circuit but could attract overseas distribution by virtue of such exposure.

More splish than “Splash,” the movie wants to be a modern-day fairy tale — yet another mer-myth rippling in the wake of “The Shape of Water” — but remains frustratingly ambiguous about the nature of the enigmatic Japanese guy (Dean Fujioka) who stumbles out of the crystal-blue water in the opening scene. The mystery man doesn’t speak at first, refusing to explain where he came from or what he’s doing in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, although he seems to be comfortable around aspiring journalist Ilma (Sekar Sari) and her endearingly awkward cameraman Kris (Adipati Dolken), who are interviewing survivors of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami — until they realize that perhaps this intriguing amnesiac (dubbed Laut, or “sea,” since he needs a name) might make a better subject.