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My Darling is a Foreigner attempts to take a light-hearted look at cross-cultural relationships, namely Japanese women and foreign men. It is a topic that should throw up amusing, insightful and even painful episodes. Instead, we are presented with this vacuous, witless, ill-conceived offering.
Saori is a struggling manga artist besotted with Japanophile American Tony. The opening sequences of the film involves Saori waiting for the somewhat wimpy Tony to make a move. During this time she is exposed to Tony's coterie of gaijin friends, one-dimensional representations painfully devoid of any humanity or complexity. Gaijin, in fact, as some uninformed Japanese filmmaker imagines them to be. At one point one of Tony's friends flicks Saori on the nose and jibes at her for not speaking English. In two decades of living in Japan I have crossed paths with some gaijin knob'eads in my time, but nothing about this guy struck me as authentic. Shoddy scripting combined with village hall acting did not make the minor characters shine, to say the least.
The action picks up slightly when Tony and Saori become a couple and we are introduced to Saori's parents. Jun Kunimura at least brings some acting kudos to the flick, charismatic in every scene he appears in. But those are far too few, and his talent merely serves to highlight the gap between him and the muggers around him. Ditto Shinobu Ôtake, a high-calibre talent who does her best with the meager fare the role offers.
The plot, what there is of it, makes no sense. Saori's father opposes the union, but we are meant to feel he changed his mind because he was learning English - despite the fact that Tony is fluent in Japanese. The setting appears to be contemporary, and Saori owns a mobile phone. But Tony learns of the birth of his nephew by snail mail. At the film's climax, Saori incredulously hops on a plane to visit Tony in the States without contacting him or carrying his phone number. She takes a taxi to his street, gets out, and bumps into him peeping at a wedding. Even in light-hearted fare such as this, such sloppy plot mechanics are insulting.
Mao Inoue as Saori pantomimes in that cringe-inducing style (overt pouts, muttered asides, talking to oneself in exposition) so ubiquitous in Japanese TV dramas these days. It's a pity she did not observe Kunimura more closely. Jonathan Sherr as Tony is as bland as white bread. One imagines the filmmakers were forced to compromise on acting ability, or Japanese language ability, and decided to sacrifice the former. The chemistry between Saori and Tony is best described as inert.
I know of, but have not read, the manga this is based on. Written by a Japanese female based on her real-life international marriage, I imagine, given its success, that it is poignant and keenly observed. It surely can't be as trite and shallow as this cinematic adaptation. The Japanese female who watched the film with me called My Darling is a Foreigner "lame". Given that she is herself a big fan of the TV dramas I find unfathomable, I'd say that is damning criticism.
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