Come Back Anytime

Come Back Anytime ★★★★

Full confession: my main parameters for MIFF selections this year were nothing over 90min and nothing too explicitly grim. So “Come Back Anytime” a modest little doco about a Ramen master in Tokyo felt like a “safe” choice- a bit of foodie escapism hitting right in the wheelhouse of things I love but cannot do IRL at this time. But it turned out to be a much more affecting and thought provoking experience than I’d anticipated, not only activating my feelings of longing for travel, and Japan, but for closeness and community that have been disrupted through the last 18 months. Within its very narrow scope of profiling Masamoto Ueda and his much beloved noodle shop- interviewing his wife and patrons, observing his labours, and recreations-it managed to raise some deep and complex questions about: what it takes to live a good life; when and how to quit; the difference between work and labour, and most movingly, what the maintenance of place can do to connect and support individuals within a community. Going into this film you might expect some well worn tropes about Japanese tradition, honour and fidelity, but most endearingly you get the story of a ne’er do well who taught himself the relatively new culinary art of ramen from a book, hewed to no particular traditions, made his own rules and feels content in the knowledge that he may pass on his legacy to no one. Scenes of him larking in the countryside on the weekend with his customer-friends also remind you that the Japanese reverence for nature is almost defined by the fact that so many of its citizens live in a profoundly un-natural environment. At different points in the film I did wonder- why this guy? Why does his story in particular matter? But the point was more that there are thousands of such guys and joints all over Tokyo, Japan, and indeed any big or small town, anywhere.