The first thing that comes screaming to your mind when you come to know of this movie, is MEET JOE BLACK, yes in caps, and a nagging feeling that it's a rip off / copycat coming some 10 years after that Hollywood movie. Although this is based on the Japanese novel by Kotaro Isaka, you can't help but to ponder upon the similarities between the two movies.
And it seems that Death / Grim Reaper, besides having a liking for black suits (for obvious reasons), also have a liking for putting on pretty-boy faces. From Brad Pitt to Takeshi Kaneshiro here, the full house today was likely to be attributed to the many fan girls who were squealing their way through the movie each time Kaneshiro appeared on screen. I suspect if Death really looked like that, these girls would gladly spend 7 days with the good looking stranger, only to have him decide if they should fulfill their destiny and die, or be passed-over because of unfinished business. And there'll be a queue that will scream "Take Me, Please!"
So the Grim Reaper acts like a judge, taking his limited time in between getting to know the mark, with listening to music in record stores, one of his, and the pastime too of many peer Reapers. Kaneshiro calls himself Mr Chiba, and walks the mortal realm when he's given a mission of assessment, accessed through a door from the nether realms which opens up to the specific location where the mark is. And it really contains no surprise, even right from the start, where you'll know just whose door has Death come knocking upon.
Armed with a deathly, though temporal, touch, he has to cover his hands in gloves lest he accidentally puts someone into comatose, which becomes his weapon of choice in self- protection, and the protection of others. And to think that he has roamed our world enough to know the intricacies and antics of us human beings, Sweet Rain still contains enough juvenile jokes when he has to tussle with phrases unfamiliar to him, especially when they have double meanings, or make figurative references, and of course, the fan girls just love it when Kaneshiro provides his puppy dog look when he becomes confused and seeks clarification.
As a feature length movie, it's really made up of three distinct acts, and the middle one suffered through a whole emotional and narrative disconnect from the other two, with slow pacing and uninteresting yakuza characters to fill time. The main mark of this movie is Manami Konishi's Kazue Fujiki, a girl who works at the complaints department who is a classic down and out loner with few friends, no objective and goals in life, and keeps getting harassed by this middle aged man over the phone who persists in getting her to answer his queries, and strange requests.
I thought the strength of the movie was in the lengths it took to establish Chiba's relationship with Manami, though credit to the story that it wasn't a rehash of Meet Joe Black by the time the ending rolled over. Manami Konishi's portrayal was also a departure from her sprightly turn in Udon, but ventured close to her role in Retribution/Sakebi, but hey, Chiba hit the mark when he said she looked prettier when she smiled, given that she's brooding in the movie most of the time.
So I shan't spoil the story by recounting what happened in each act, but suffice to say that this movie is beautifully shot against a backdrop of rainy days which Chiba seemed cursed to work under each time he visits our world, but he's not lonely in his mission with the black pet mongrel who shadows him, and thankfully, doesn't speak out like what Hollywood would do, but communicate telepathically with Chiba, and through subtitles with us mortal folks.