Dear Etranger takes a hard look at a complicated family unit, headed by the 40-year-old Makoto Tanaka (Tadanobu Asano). A man with two families, Makoto tries to lead as ordinary a life as possible—he maintains a bond with his daughter from his first marriage, but he also tries to keep her away from his second wife, Nanae, and his two step daughters.
When Nanae becomes pregnant, however, the fissures around the seemingly happy family begin to widen. And this news has come at the worst time—when career ruin, fatal disease, and other events befall Makoto’s kin. But Makoto refuses to give up, or to abandon his ideal: having a family where he is more than the title “etranger” (stranger).
Based on Kiyoshi Shigematsu’s 1996 novel of the same Japanese title, Haruhiko Arai’s script covers years in the lives of his principals using conventional flashbacks presented with unconventional freshness. The film is honest and candid, unafraid to show life as often messy and raw, and providing glimpses of the sort of interior truths that reveal themselves only rarely