‘Wandering’: Questionable subject matter, handled with care


Japanese films about forbidden love go back decades, but the definition of “forbidden” has changed, if more so abroad than here. Hideo Jojo’s 2022 sex comedy “Love Nonetheless” would be a hard sell in Hollywood since its story of a 16-year-old girl pursuing a 30-year-old guy as a marriage partner would raise eyebrows at the pair’s inappropriate age difference.

The same is true of Sang-il Lee’s “Wandering.” Based on Yu Nagira’s novel about a 9-year-old girl who lives contently with a 19-year-old male stranger for two months until the police arrest him as her kidnapper and presumed abuser, this film may seem on its face a feature-length apologia for pedophilia. But as seen in his previous films, “Villain” (2010) and “Rage” (2016), Lee tends to focus on unconventional relationships on the social margins against a backdrop of crime. With “Wandering,” he once again makes compelling drama from dark and even dubious materials.

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