Connect with us

Film Reviews

‘Hoarder on the Border’ review: Dir. Takayuki Kayano

Sometimes in life things don’t work out how we planned. That is especially true for young promising pianist Ritsuki (Ryo Shinoda). After hand tremors puts an end to his professional concert career he wants to find something new to do with his life, and ends up employed at a cleaning company that specialises in cleaning the out-of-control homes of hoarders. In this understated comedy drama from director Takayuki Kayano we follow Ritsuki and his colleagues, led by their likeable oddball boss Ichiki (Masayasu Kitayama), to bring some order back to other people’s lives, and perhaps to Ritsuki’s as well.

Hoarder on the Boarder is very low-key in both its drama and comedy. It’s awkward, but it’s an endearing awkwardness that feels authentic. The film is structured as a series of vignettes focussing on Ritsuki and then the various customers of the cleaning service. They are Asuka (Yumiko Nakamura), a single mother trying to get her house in order before a home visit from her son’s school, Von (Mac Sekioka), a Filipino care worker about to return to his home country, Shigeo (Shigeru Izumiya), a curmudgeonly old man whose trash house has earned him the ire of locals and his son, and Mariko (Tomu Muto), a recently engaged woman who has hidden her messy apartment from her prim and tidy fiancé.

The ins and outs as to how these people have ended up in this state are never explicitly explained, but with all there is a sense of something lost; a career, a loved one, a satisfaction in life, and the result being both the mess and keeping others at a distance. Boss Ichiki’s approach with Shigeo particularly is a one of more compassion and understanding than most people who encounter the older man. With all the customers the service’s cleaning is a big help in their lives in some way, but there are clearly still underlying issues that need addressing. It’s nice as you never feel that things are so simply fixed. 

You get the sense with Ritsuki of someone who has spent so much of his life dedicated to one thing at the expense of everything else. He’s awkward, doesn’t appear to have any friends, it’s implied that his mother has a slightly overbearing quality, and when his long-term girlfriend breaks up with him it barely seems to have any effect on him. The one time we do see him express loss at his change in situation is when he quietly breaks down whilst giving a young child a piano lesson. He seems ill-suited in just about every way to his new job, but in many ways it’s an extreme stepping outside of his comfort zone. His first day is predictably a disaster, but his unspoken determination to make it work is charming.

Little things and coincidences link the vignettes, and we sometimes get to see certain situations from multiple POVs. It gives Hoarder on the Border that sense of overlapping lives and the connected nature of people. The fact that Mariko, the final customer we see, is the teacher participating in the home visit to Asuka and her son near the beginning is also a reminder that something people who seem to have things together also have their own problems. By the film’s end Ritsuki has progressed as a person and is a lot more relaxed and at ease in the job and himself. He doesn’t have a plan or a goal but he’s happy just for the moment. It’s nice, but it would be a lot more satisfying if we got to really see the progression of that rather than just the beginning and the end.

Whilst the vignette nature of the film’s structure is one of the things that makes Hoarder on the Border feel different, it also makes for it’s biggest weakness. This is a structure that would have lent itself better to a tv series format, something like the show Midnight Diner which sees the comings and goings of the customers of a small izakaya. It would give more room for things like getting to see the development of Ritsuki’s character better, expanding on the inner lives of the customers, and give an opportunity to get to know more concerning the fellow members of the cleaning team other than Ichiki. It’s not a major issue, and the film is perfectly enjoyable as it is, but it just would have made it possible to get even more out of the premise.

Hoarder on the Border

Sarah Miles

Hoarder on the Border


Whilst Hoarder at the Border has some really good things to say and a modest charm to go with it, but the fact that it is a film rather than a more long-form storytelling format holds it back. 


Hoarder on the Border was reviewed as part of the The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 takes place in cinemas around the UK from 2 February – 31 March 2024. For further information please head here.

Sarah has a keen interest in all things horror, Japan and video games, and is a regular contributor to Ghouls magazine.


Latest Posts


More in Film Reviews