Dark Water poses an elemental question: How do we evaluate a society? Koji Suzuki's answer may be in the way we treat our children, and Director Hideo Nakata's haunting adaptation of child abandonment and parental sacrifice doesn't fail to deliver.
Dark Water begins with Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) in the throe of a bitter divorce, and embarking on a new life with her young daughter, Ikuku (Rio Kanno). Needing to relocate, they settle in a dank riverfront apartment in a desiccated Tokyo neighborhood, staffed by an opportunistic property manager and recalcitrant superintendent. Yoshimi's less than ideal new job, and Ikuko's trepidation about attending a new school add to their apprehension. Their struggle takes an unexpected turn when Yoshimi senses the ghostly presence of a young girl, wearing a yellow pauncho and grasping her red Mimiko school bag, which Ikuko later finds, but Yoshimi won't allow her to keep. Despite its disposal, the bag mysteriously reappears throughout the film, poignantly punctuating the plot. Yoshimi realizes the serious nature of the girl's presence, who manifests herself, at first, with a watermark on their apartment ceiling, looking much like Sadako's ring from Ringu, before worsening into an ungainly apparition with the passage of time. Yoshimi's new responsibilities keep her from picking-up Ikuko after school on time, on a few occasions, which fuels her estranged husband's drive to gain Ikuku's custody, haggaring an already frustrated Yoshimi.
But here is where the mystery deepens.
The waterworks are accompanied by footfalls from apartment 405, leading Yoshimi to investigate. She learns that a young girl, Mitsuko Kawai, lived in the apartment and was abandoned by her father, following a broken marriage. Moreover, Mitsuko may, in fact, be competing with lkuko for her affection. Emotionally torn, Yoshimi must try to protect her daughter from Mitsuko's pursuit. If this sounds familiar, do not misunderstand. Dark Water is a unique film, with its own story to tell, distinct but not disconnected from Suzuki's Ring series, and well worth viewing.
Children--particularly infants, young girls, the infirm, the frail and the elderly--are society's most vulnerable members. Two decades ago, novelist Morris West grappled with a similar theme (among others) in the Clowns of God (1981), which debated whether or not the mentally incapacitated had the right to survive a world catastrophe. (You'll need to read his novel, for yourself, to learn his answer.) In Dark Water, Hideo Nakata masterfully brings to life a young girl's ghostly search for love and acceptance that overpowers the living. Fine performances abound, underscoring Mitsuko's heart-wrenching tragedy and society's penance.