Cool as a summer drizzle, Nipponese coming-of-ager “The Town of Whales” is so slight that it will come and go without a trace, leaving only the afterthought “Oh, to be young.” Skipping from a search for a missing brother to a love triangle to a philosophical meditation on whales (not necessarily in that order of significance), the brief, almost impromptu story captures a tremulous moment of transition from youth to adulthood, from friendship to love. Even if this 68-minute vignette doesn’t break out beyond fests, debuting helmer Keiko Tsuruoka’s fresh voice promises bigger projects to come.During the last summer vacation of high school, Machi (Momoko Tobita) makes a day trip to Tokyo with classmates Tomohiko (Sui Katano) and Hotari (Sakiko Yamaguchi) to look for her brother Tetsu, who disappeared from their provincial hometown six years ago. Tetsu’s whereabouts and Machi’s obsession with why whales migrated from land to sea are ultimately red herrings, as an amorous tiff drolly erupts during the trio’s stay. The protags exude dorky innocence, even in a scene in which Tomohiko awkwardly tries to molest Machi. Extensive closeups warmly convey the characters’ intimacy.
A PIA Film Festival release and presentation. (International sales: PIA Film Festival, Tokyo.) Produced, directed, written, edited by Keiko Tsuruoka.
Camera (color, HD), art director/costume designer, Risa Takeuchi; sound (stereo), Noriko Takeuchi; line producer,Hiroshi Nagai; assistant director, Risa Takeuchi. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (New Currents, competing), Sept. 6, 2012. Running time: 68 MIN.
Momoko Tobita, Sui Katano, Sakiko Yamaguchi, Kentaro Sato, Masaru Nakashima. (Japanese dialogue)