When Syamoto's teenage daughter is caught stealing, a generous middle-aged man helps resolve the situation. The man and his wife offer to have Syamoto's troublesome daughter work at their ... See full summary »
The erotic novelist Taeko is writing a morbid story of a family destroyed by incest, murder and abuse. Her assistant, Yuji, sets on a mission to uncover the reality of this story, but the reality might be too much to bear.
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In a Japanese high school, a class of adolescent geeks joins the new synchronized swimming teacher and takes up the challenge to take part in the competition, in spite of the mockeries of the "real sportsmen".
A 21-year-old girl is released from prison, only to deal with the neighborhood gossip about her and family conflicts. She decides to save one million yen, move to where no one knows her and keep repeating the process.
How To Become Myself tackles a number of familiar teenage issues relating to bullying, self-worth and identity and inevitably runs the risk of talking down to its audience, over-dramatising the issues, smothering them in platitudes and wrapping them up with a neat instructive moral Jun Ichikawa however is far too good a director to allow that to happen.
Everything stems from a conversation that Juri has with her classmate Hinako on their last day of graduation from middle-school. Juri has been observing the vagaries of the unpredictable flow of popularity between her classmates as the years progress, with nerdy kids suddenly becoming cool and popular, while other normal outgoing girls start to become withdrawn, picked-upon and ostracised. Juri knows it's a balancing act and has to work hard to keep on the right side of friends, but finds it difficult all the same. Hinako is one of those girls however who has found it too much to deal with and has decided to move on to a different school. Considerate of the challenges her friend must face, even though she has her own difficulties to deal with both in school and in her family life, Juri anonymously sends e-mails and texts to Hinako to help her re-establish herself in her new life, while at the same time using the experience for a writing project.
While there certainly seem to be some concessions towards its younger audience, Juri in the process devising a kind of set of rules for survival through these difficult adolescent years, the director playing around with the screen format to for split screen effects and text message inserts, Ichikawa never resorts to platitudes, despite fears that might be generated by the film's English title. Certainly achievement of this aim is the film's object, but the director never allows the viewer to be fooled into thinking that following a set of rules is ideal or even easily achievable. The rules Juri devises are a good guideline that can make the path smoother, but even those are no guarantee that through them you'll be happy with yourself or even come to an understand who you really are something that Juri herself, for all her seemingly perfect understanding of the world, comes to realise.
While these are indeed familiar issues, it's rare to see them treated so well, so realistically and with such sensitivity in the cinematic medium. Ichikawa, who similarly navigated the inexpressible sentiments of loss and loneliness in Tony Takitani though delicate camera movements and desaturated colouration, similarly allows mood, music and situation to express more than false drama or over-explanation, getting to the heart of the characters involved and the little dramas writ large that are their lives.
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