Soranin (2010) Poster


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Miyazaki Aoi's winning performance saves Miki Takahiro's mediocre film
jmaruyama20 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Miki Takahiro's youth oriented film "Solanin" (Sky People) is a trite melodrama that is wrought with tired cliché but is elevated from mediocre status by the sheer power of Miyazaki Aoi's touching performance. Miyazaki proves once again that she is one of the most gifted and talented of Japan's young acting elite.

Adapted from Asano Inio's acclaimed and popular Shogakukan's Weekly Young Sunday manga of the same name, the film follows the uncertain future of its young protagonist, Inoue Meiko (Miyazaki Aoi) who is a twenty-something "OL" (Office Lady) working in the urban jungle of Tokyo. She has been living in Tokyo since moving from the countryside to attend university. She is currently in a long-term, serious relationship with college sweetheart Taneda Naruo (Kora Kengo), a tall and lanky fellow country bumpkin who has come to Tokyo with dreams of starting a band and making it big. Together with college buddies drummer Yamada Jiro AKA "Billie" (Kiritani Kenta) and bassist Kato Kenichi AKA "Debu" (real life J-Rock "SampoMaster's" band member Kondo Yoichi), they have been playing small clubs for a number of years.

Growing increasingly frustrated with the boredom at work, Meiko makes a fateful decision to quit her steady job to try and find a more meaningful opportunity in life much to Taneda's chagrin. Up-to-now Taneda has been relying on Meiko's income to help pay the bills (aside from his infrequent band gigs, Taneda's sole source of income comes from his "freeter"/part-time job as a graphic artist at a small publishing company). Taneda decides to take his music more seriously and makes a push at getting his band discovered and getting a music contract.

Taneda produces a single called "Solanin", a weepy, rock ballad that he hopes will get his band noticed (the name is a play off of the word "Sora"(Sky) and "Nin"(People) and is interpreted as those who "reach for the sky" i.e. go after their dreams).

Out of the dozen record companies that they solicited only one responds back to their demo submission. Yet when Taneda, Billie and Meiko go meet with the record producer, they are told that they only want them to sign up as a backup band for one of their up-and-coming pop idols.

His confidence shattered, Taneda falls into a deep depression. He ends his relationship with Meiko and disappears for a month. After one last phone call to Meiko, Taneda commits suicide by running his moped past a red light and getting into a deadly traffic accident.

Devastated by Taneda's death, Meiko also falls into a deep depression but thanks to the comfort and support of college friend Kotani Ai (the beautiful Ito Ayumi), Meiko is inspired to learn to play the guitar and continue Taneda's goal. Along with Billie and Kato, Meiko sets off to make Taneda's dream a reality.

Takahiro's film follows a number of other similar "chase a dream" music themed movies including Otani Kentaro's "Nana"(2005), Honda Ryuichi's "GS Wonderland" (2008) and most recently Kobayashi Takeshi's "Bandage" (2010) to name only a few but unfortunately doesn't quite really set itself apart from these films let alone match their brilliance. Screenwriter Takahashi Izumi's adaptation of Asano Inio's original story may be a good interpretation of the source material but the film itself covers much of the same ground as other better films and unfortunately comes off as yet another tired, overly sentimental and melodramatic teen drama.

As mentioned, Miyazaki Aoi (Gaichu, Nana, Su-Ki-Da) is great as Meiko and does a commendable job of elevating the material from boring romance to heartwarming and inspiring drama. Miyazaki not only does a good job of making Meiko a real person but also a credible musician (Miyazaki actually learned to play guitar and sing for this role).

The supporting cast is also very likable and charming. Kora Kengo (Bandage, Sad Vacation) seems to enjoy playing the "tortured soul" part and excels at it here. Kiritani Kenta (Crows Zero Series, Rookies, 69) also is type-casted again as a tough but lovable punk. Musician Kondo Yoichi is pretty charming in his role as jovial Kato and his comedy bits are hilarious. Gorgeous Ito Ayumi (Bandage, Swallowtail Butterfly)is again given a nice supporting role but I wish she would be given the chance to headline a film for once as she is a decent actress.

The music is another highlight especially the main "Solanin" theme (performed by J-Rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation).

While the film itself is pretty disappointing from a story standpoint, the only other saving grace about the film (aside from Miyazaki Aoi's acting) is the beautiful and stunning cinematography by Kondo Ryuto. His deep long shots of the Tokyo skyline awash in blue sky are simply magnificent and breathtaking.

Miyazaki is definitely a true talent and hopefully she will get more of the recognition she deserves for her work and maybe we will even get to see her in Hollywood as I see her as being just as talented if not more so than either Kikuchi Rinko(Babel)or Kuriyama Chiaki (Battle Royale, Exte, Kill Bill Vol. 1).
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ButaNiShinju14 April 2012
The film slavishly follows the manga, but cannot reproduce its languid graphic atmosphere, instead becoming tiresome. The characters (with the exception of the fat bass player) are also too good-looking for their parts.

By the way, 'solanin' refers to solanine -- the poison found in plants of the nightshade family and, more particularly, in potatoes when they begin to go green and sprout; this is referred to in the film -- although the rather poor English subtitles may not make it clear -- and alludes to the gifts of vegetables sent by Meiko's mother which are allowed to rot. (Japanese is full of words that sound like they could mean one thing but actually mean something else...)
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An OK movie that could have been much better.
cremea23 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers

This is a standard "young adults growing up while in a music band" tale…it wasn't terrible, but it could and should have been a lot better. It's brought down by two main problems. First, this movie is too long…definitely could have used a second pass through the edit room because it tends to drag and become dull in several scenes. The second problem is the primary issue, and it almost kills the movie altogether…I'll get to that problem in a moment.

This movie basically revolves around two main characters; a wannabe musician and his live in girlfriend. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out by their friends, band mates, and a few other characters. The entire supporting cast is fairly decent and they all do a capable enough job here. The lead actress, and primary star of the film, is very good in her role as the supportive and dependable girlfriend…she's an attractive and talented actress, and her character here is likable, cute, and charming throughout.

The lead actor's character however, is about as enjoyable as eating dirt…and this is what ruins this film. Here's a description of his character; he's a, boring, selfish, childish, lazy, inept, aimless, indecisive, insensitive, unreliable, mooch. He's also the lead singer, guitarist, & song writer for the band…unfortunately, he doesn't sing or play the guitar well at any point during the entire film, and he never sticks to the lyrics he wrote or music he composed either…Does that about sum him up for you?...if you think I'm exaggerating, watch the movie and tell me otherwise! There is literally nothing to like about the lead character of this movie at all. If this character were a real life person, he would not have any friends, his band mates would have kicked him out of the band years ago when they realized how talentless he was, and, he probably wouldn't have any girlfriends that would have stuck by him for any length of time.

Despite the total disdain the entire supporting cast "should" have for the lead character, they all somehow think he's this good guy and they all seem somewhat dependent upon him for their happiness and sense of direction in life to varying degrees. These characters are all fairly directionless in life as well, but they all look like Steve Jobs compared to the lead character. I had so much contempt for this lead character that I was openly rooting for him to get hit by a bus or something halfway through the movie, so we could start focusing on the far more interesting and likable members of the cast (which is everyone else in the entire movie). Then, a miracle happens; the main character actually does get hit by a bus or car or something and dies…I guess he committed suicide, but you can't tell if that was really his intention because he can't ever make up his mind on whether he wants to commit to doing something or not.

At this point, the movie chooses to follow the cliché ridden method of having everyone come to terms with the loss of their friend by working towards playing his music on stage. It's blatantly obvious that this is the perfect impetus everyone needs in order to move forward with their lives…however, they could have all just easily mourned his death in their own individual ways, and then just moved on in life without all this nonsense…But, this is "band movie" after all, so, we can't have that can we?

All in all, there is decent enough amount of stuff to like in this movie to some extent, but I can't give it a definitively positive recommendation because of the unjustly deserved weight this movie places on the main actor's character…simply put; he's not nearly amiable enough for the viewer to truly connect with why the people he left behind felt he was so emotionally meaningful to their lives. This movie would have benefited greatly by making this character either MUCH less of a douche, or, killing him off MUCH earlier in the film before the viewer (in this instance anyway) got to the point of outright hating him and questioning why the rest of the cast of characters didn't hate him also.

6 out of 10 stars!
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