In a remote Japanese rural village of 1,500 aged residents, the sole and much-beloved physician, Osamu Ino (Tsurube Shofukutei), has gone missing. During the police investigation into his disappearance, Ino’s reputation is questioned, with emerging discrepancies in his credentials pointing to fraud and willful endangerment of the health of local residents.
In spite of these revelations, the town and even the mayor comes to the defence of Ino, who is also deeply admired and considered a cherished mentor by his colleagues — nurse Akemi Otake (Kimiko Yo, Departures) and a young medical intern, Keisuke Soma (Eita).
The film’s humorous vignettes of the trio visiting elderly patients show Ino’s wonderful bedside manner and sensitive approach to medicine. And after he miraculously brings a man back from the dead, Ino’s standing in the community approaches a godlike stature.
But then he encounters the case of an elderly widow — Torikai-san (Kaoru Yachigusa) — complaining of a stomach ache that appears to be more serious than Ino’s initial diagnosis. Complicating the issue, he has developed an ambiguous relationship with Mrs. Torikai, who is neglected by her grown daughters, one of whom is a doctor in Tokyo.
Based on her own novel, Kino no kamisama, director Miwa Nishikawa’s Dear Doctor is an endearing and artful comedy about how patients sometimes suffer more from loneliness than from physical illness. Posing a philosophical dilemma, the storyline asks: what qualifies someone to care for others — credentials or life experiences? This charming and nostalgic film, with gorgeous cinematography and a popular cast, has won more than 21 awards in Japan.
– Heather Keung