A small-scale first feature, “Unloved” follows an independently minded young woman who becomes involved with a pair of totally different men. Though there are some flashes of insight, and moments that effectively capture the dilemma of the central character, pic is constrained by its narrow depiction of what women want, or seem to want, in contemporary Japan. Director Kunitoshi Manda bears watching, but outside the fest route there’ll be few takers for this minimal debut.
Mitsuko (Yuko Moriguchi), a young woman in her 20s, works at City Hall but refuses to take the civil service exam that is a requisite for her to climb the public service ladder. As a result, she’s stuck in a rut, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
On a visit to City Hall, she’s spotted by Eiji (Toru Nakamura), a slick 30-ish go-getter with his own software and systems engineering company. He offers her a job but, when she declines, takes her out on a date instead. The couple sleep together, and the next night Eiji takes Mitsuko to Calvin Klein where he buys her a wildly expensive new evening dress, with shoes to match, as a prelude to dinner at a very fashionable restaurant. But no sooner have they arrived at the swank eatery than Eiji is summoned to see a client, so he leaves her there. Bad move! She decides she’s had enough of him, and that his fast-lane lifestyle is too rich for her anyway.
She’s not alone for long, however. Her new neighbor is Hiroshi (Shunsuke Matsuoka), the 28-year-old son of a peasant, a long-haired, guitar-playing dreamer who works in a warehouse. With him, sex is better than ever, but when Eiji pays her an unexpected visit and runs into Hiroshi, there are immediate complications. Hiroshi wonders why on earth Mitsuko left this rich young businessman to hook up with a loser like himself, Eiji thinks that maybe he was wrong to fall for her in the first place if this scruffy guy is the one to replace him, and Mitsuko herself despairs of ever finding the man who will precisely share her rather narrow outlook on the world.
Most of the film is a talkfest, with the characters discussing the issues in lengthy conversation scenes, punctuated by occasional bursts of romantic music. Yuko Moriguchi never quite convinces as a young woman with enough sex appeal or personality to ensnare these two eligible guys, but despite this she gives a good performance as the exacting heroine, while Nakamura and Matsuoka lend solid support as the two wildly contrasted guys.
Pic’s grainy look betrays a modest budget, but production values are acceptable.