The opening credits of Cutie and the Boxer appear over a shirtless octogenarian Asian man punching canvas wearing giant paint covered boxing gloves. This is a documentary about the relationship between two elderly Japanese American artists living in New York City. Ushio Shinohara achieved some fame in art circles as a rowdy youth living in Japan, but his career seemed to go downhill after he moved to America in 1969. He met his wife Noriko, who is also an artist, around this time. They have been together for over 39 years.
Despite the profession of it’s subjects, this is not a documentary about art. The focus is instead on the unique bond held by a somewhat eccentric married couple. They are elderly and poverty stricken but still very much in love. It is not the kind of love we usually see in movies however. There is no whirlwind romance or deep display of passion. It is something else entirely. It is honest and real and full of complexity.
The power of the film is not necessarily the experience of watching it, but the dialogue it allows us to have, especially with loved ones. Are these two happy? Were their sacrifices warranted? These questions are open to interpretation. The impact of this couple lingers long after the credits roll.
Cutie and the Boxer is now available on instant streaming from Netflix.
See the trailer here.