Sophomore film from director Yosuke Nakagawa, whose first, “Blue Fish,” unspooled at the Berlin Forum in 1998, confirms a director with a classic style and a talent for probing into the psychology of his youthful characters. Handsome-looking production should attract increasing attention on the fest route, though it’s a far cry from the flashier pics that tend to grab attention these days. Quality TV network programmers should also take a look.
An “American Graffiti”-like tale, but sans the popular song component, the film, which is set in Okinawa, covers a few hours in the lives of three 18-year-olds who have been longtime school buddies. But school days have ended, and this is their last evening before they go their separate ways.
Kazuya (Keigo Heshiki) has decided to enroll at the university in Tokyo, but he hasn’t told his girlfriend, Yukiko (Haru Kawazu), yet.
Syusuke (Tomoyuki Otsuka) plans to go to London, but before he leaves he’s desperate to find a girl to spend the night with. In a bar, he encounters the very drunken Mari (Rumi) who agrees, much to his surprise, but things don’t turn out the way he expected.
Masaru (Hirokazu Kagawa) has been working in a karaoke bar, where he encounters a rather mysterious girl, Ryoko (Kumi Fujita) and winds up at a “love hotel” with her.
This portrait of young people is essentially a benign one. These are basically decent kids, whose lives thus far have been spent living in a backwater, and who are about to leave Okinawa and see the world.
Nakagawa’s camera style harks back to master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu as he films his story in a series of conversations, mostly with two characters onscreen, invariably with an immobile camera. Scenes are punctuated with establishing shots of buildings, neon signs and cityscapes.
Resulting film is a refreshing, crystal clear vision of society, both funny and sad and above all very human. Every member of the ensemble cast acts with unforced naturalism.