Hideo Harada is a scriptwriter who is going through a difficult patch: he just divorced and because of his wife’s settlement, he is forced to live in his office, located in a noisy Tokyo district, in a building harboring mainly other business offices. Even professionally, things look dim, since demands for new scripts are infrequent. Moreover, he learns that Mamiya, the producer he usually writes the most TV scripts for, won’t work with him anymore because he plans to court Hideo’s ex-wife.

Lonely, Hideo goes back to the district of Asakusa, where he spent a happy childhood with his parents, before they both died in a traffic accident. Watching a show in a theater, Hideo is amazed to notice a man in the audience who looks exactly like his father at 35, the age of his death. When the man casually invites him home for a drink, Hideo follows, despite the incongruity of the situation. Even more surprising is the fact that the man’s wife, who is waiting at home for her husband, resembles Hideo’s dead mother, and that both of them are very friendly to Hideo. In fact they act with him very much like with a son… Around the same period of time, Hideo meets the only resident of his building beside him: a woman nicknamed Kei. He is very attracted to her, but also afraid to commit so soon to another relationship…

Strangers is of course a spellbinding ghost story, but more than that, it is a psychological story about relationships between parents and children, about loneliness and the need for human connection. "Don’t be a stranger" say the parents to Hideo to make sure that he will visit again soon. As Yamada shows, the risk for people having a loose connection is to progressively become strangers to each other, like Hideo and his own son Shigeki. In Strangers, we see that the stranger is not only the next-door neighbor, unknown until he or she knocks on your door for the first time, but also the underestimated long-time friend, who can surprise you… In his evocation of urban loneliness and by the observation that people are mostly strangers to each other, Yamada reminded me of Paul Auster…

Rating: 4/5