Suzume Katagura is a bored housewife who spends her days doing chores and taking care of her husband's pet turtle. One day she sees a wanted ad for spies. Hoping for some excitement she decides to give them a call.
Twelve-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, hears a rumor that the new bullet trains will precipitate a wish-granting miracle when they pass each other at top speed.
The nature of YOUR FRIENDS isn't quite as straightforward as the title suggests and it's not just a youth film. Yes, it's a simple story of a special friendship in youth that lasts throughout the years, but coming from Ryuichi Hiroki (VIBRATOR) the film retains an indie edge that avoids the trap of slipping into formulaic plotting or indulging in sentimentality.
There's always the potential for that in a film that opens in a school for sick children, one moreover where one of the teachers, Emi Izumi, is herself disabled from childhood and has a penchant for taking pictures of "puffy clouds". Relating her story to a visiting photojournalist, YOUR FRIENDS is surprisingly sanguine in the manner in which it relates the backstory of Emi's difficulties as a disabled child at school and quite matter-of-fact in how it shows the friendship that blossoms naturally between her and Yuka, another girl with health problems.
The film gives the friendship of Emi and Yuka a wider dimension however when it introduces a third girl, Hana, but more than that, it manages to find an equivalent male take on the subject of youthful friendship in Emi's brother Bun. Her academically gifted brother is also a sporting hero for many, including the underachieving Kazu, who has seen their friendship grow apart as a consequence. Again, the introduction of another character, the unpopular and unsympathetic loser Sato, brings out another dimension of friendships between boys.
None of this is as academic or as manipulative as it might sound. Hiroki manages to integrate all of the stories together reasonably well (even if Hana's story seems somewhat under-developed), to create a satisfying treatment of Kiyoshi Shigematsu's novel that takes it beyond anecdotal. Filming in long takes with wide angle shots might seem counter-intuitive in a film about friendship, but it seems to reflect the sense of loneliness and distance that still lies within each of the characters. It also serves to emphasise that it's the desire and the ability to overcome those obstacles that is the measure of friendship, and that's something valuable that the children will take into adult life.
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