Air Doll (空気人形, Kūki Ningyō) is a 2009 Japanese drama film directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. It is based on the manga series Kuuki Ningyo by Yoshiie Gōda, which was serialized in the seinen manga magazine Big Comic Original, and is about an inflatable doll that develops a consciousness and falls in love. The movie debuted in the Un Certain Regard section at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. It opened in Japanese cinemas on 26 September 2009.
Director Koreeda has stated that the film is about the loneliness of urban life and the question of what it means to be human.
Middle-aged Hideo lives alone with an inflatable sex doll he calls Nozomi. The doll is his closest companion; he dresses her, talks to her over dinner, takes her for walks in a wheelchair, and has sexual intercourse with her.
While Hideo is at work, Nozomi comes to life. She dresses in her maid's outfit and explores the world outside their apartment with wonder. Eventually she takes a job in a video store and becomes romantically involved with one of the employees, Junichi. When she accidentally cuts herself and deflates, Junichi repairs the tear with adhesive tape and re-inflates her.
One day, Hideo visits the store; she serves him, embarrassed, but he does not recognise her. Her boss presumes that Hideo is her boyfriend and that she is cheating on Junichi. She allows him to have sex with her. At their home, Hideo discovers Nozomi is no longer a doll. He asks her to return to lifelessness, as he finds human relationships "annoying". Hurt, she runs away from him.
Nozomi goes to the factory where she was created and meets her maker. He tells her that he believes all the dolls have hearts, as he can tell from their faces when they are returned what kind of treatment they received. When she asks what happens to used dolls, he says he throws them out with the garbage.
Nozomi tells Junichi she will do whatever he wants for him. He asks to let out her air and re-inflate her as he did in the video store. Afterwards, as he sleeps, she attempts to return the favour; finding no plug, she cuts him with scissors, and attempts to stem the blood flow with adhesive tape. Junichi dies and she leaves his body with the garbage. Heartbroken, she removes the tape sealing her own wound and allows herself to slowly deflate, to be collected with the garbage.Bae Doona as Nozomi (Air Doll)
Arata as Junichi
Itsuji Itao as Hideo
Joe Odagiri as Sonoda (the doll maker)
Sumiko Fuji as Chiyoko
Masaya Takahashi as Keiichi
Susumu Terajima as Todoroki
Kimiko Yo as Yoshiko
Air Doll received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 43% of 21 professional critics gave the film a positive review.
Reaction to the film's debut screening at Cannes was mixed, with reviewers praising Bae Doona's performance but criticising the film for its length and a lack of substance. Screen International's Dan Fainaru described the film as having a "rather thin narrative core" and its director's approach as "too diffuse", but concluded that it could be "an enjoyable work" under the right conditions. Writing for Variety, Dan Ellery said the film would have potential if cut to about 90 minutes but that "in its present form, pic may not get much farther than the fest netherworld." In contrast, The Hollywood Reporter's Maggie Lee described it as "an achingly beautiful meditation on loneliness and longing in the city" and suggested its themes would particularly appeal to female audiences.
The film was released on DVD in Japan on 26 March 2010, in standard and limited editions. Both editions include English subtitles.