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Yuki & Nina

A 9-year-old Franco-Japanese girl in Paris slowly comes to terms with her parents' separation.

A 9-year-old Franco-Japanese girl in Paris slowly comes to terms with her parents’ separation and a subsequent move to Japan with her mother in the flat family drama “Yuki & Nina.” French-Japanese co-production reps a writing-helming collaboration between maverick Japanese auteur Nobuhiro Suwa and French thesp Hippolyte Giradot, here earning his feature helming spurs. Marked by Suwa’s signature long takes and improvised perfs but offering very little in the way of emotional engagement, the pic seems unlikely to travel beyond the fest circuit and countries of production.

Faced with having to move to Japan with her mother (mono-monikered Tsuyu), young Yuki (Noe Sampy) seems more distraught about leaving her best friend Nina (Arielle Moutel) than she is about leaving her French father (Giradot). After failing to change her mom’s mind, Yuki runs away with Nina.

Wandering alone in a lush forest — which, as if in a fairy tale, leads her into the Japanese countryside — Yuki finds a pleasant world full of youthful playmates and adult caregivers. By the time she returns to the forest and finds her father, she has reconciled herself to her future and growth. Like the undernourished script, the pic’s symbolism seems stale and dry.

Centering on the perspective of the non-pro child performers (and including a few too many long scenes of children playing games), “Yuki & Nina” lacks vitality. Pretty, bilingual Sampy is an enigmatic low-key presence, while Moutel comes off shrill and bossy.

Considering the French and Japanese production teams edited in parallel from their respective countries — and, according to press notes, the writer-helmers had differing visions — the pic feels very much of a singular piece, at the very least.

Tech credits are pro, especially the artfully composed images of d.p. Josee Deshales.

Yuki & Nina

France-Japan

  • Production: An Ad Vitam (in France) release of a Comme des Cinemas, Les Films du Lendemain, Arte (France)/Bitters End (Japan) production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Masa Sawada. Co-producer, Kristina Larsen. Directed, written by Nobuhiro Suwa, Hippolyte Giradot.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Josee Deshales; editor, Hisako Suwa, Laurence Briad; music, Foreign Office, Lily Margot, Doc Mateo; set designers, Emmanuel de Chauvigny, Veronique Barneoud, China Suzuki; costume designer, Jean-Charline Tomlinson; sound (Dolby Digital, DTS) Dominique Lacour, Raphael Giradot. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 15, 2009. Running time: 93 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Noe Sampy, Arielle Moutel, Tsuyu, Hippolyte Giradot, Marilyne Canto.
  • Music By: