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Archive for May 5th, 2012

Told in flashback, Tsuneo is a young college student who works at a mahjong parlour. The people there talk a lot about an old woman who pushes around a mysterious baby carriage. The punters are curious as to who or what could be inside this carriage as she’s been doing this now for 10 years. A chance for Tsuneo to find out arrives by chance as one morning he sees the carriage freewheeling down the street until it crashes with the old woman unable to keep up with it. Tsuneo opens the carriage and finds a woman his age sitting inside. So the mystery has finally been unveiled! He gets to know the two women and even goes back to their house that same morning and eats an amazing breakfast cooked by the woman inside the carriage. The woman is called Kumiko although she prefers to be called Josee after a character from a book she’s read and her elderly grandmother looks after her. Josee has been unable to use her legs since an early age because of cerebal palsy. Having been taken care of by her grandmother since childhood, Josee has spent a sheltered life, reading books that her grandmother has picked up when their neighbours have chucked out their trash. Led by his fascination of Josee, Tsuneo soon begins to regularly visit her run-down house. Josee slowly takes down her guard, and the two mutually begin to care for each other. But Tsuneo is at the same time dating a girl from college called Kanae and her grandmother will not allow Josee to be hurt so she bans Tsuneo from visiting again. Later, he hears that Josee’s grandmother has died so he decides to visit Josee to see how she is. Their relationship quickly becomes close and they start dating but will the path of true love run smooth for this pair?

An excellent unlikely romance movie between a college student and a captivating girl paralyzed from the waist down. It’s got everything you’ve come to expect from modern Japanese cinema with a quirky storyline, subtle comedy, a pair of engaging and extremely likeable leads and above all a movie that draws you in from the first scene. Clocking in at nearly 2 hours, I did expect the movie to lag a bit but it never did…..probably because I was so engrossed in the storyline. It never gets boring or outstays it’s welcome. There’s a message in the movie that you can find true love in the least likely of places. I did like the love triangle aspect between Josee, Tsuneo and Kanae. The slow pace of the movie gives us plenty of time for some crucial character development.

Chizuru Ikewaki’s performance as Josee is truly fantastic. Strong-willed, sarcastic and frank she may be on the outside but we sense that underneath that bravado there’s a very sweet, shy and vulnerable girl hiding inside. Satoshi Tsumabuki also does his job quite well as the easygoing Tsuneo – showing a great deal of charisma but not to the extent when he could come off to the viewer as being smarmy. The chemistry and intimacy between the two characters as they grow closer to each feels quite real and convincing, and it is entertaining to just watch them interact casually at the same time. Juri Ueno gets a chance to leave her usual comedy characters behind to take up a serious role as Tsuneo’s girlfriend Kanae who feels humiliated that a disabled woman has stolen him from her. Watch their slapping encounter on the top of a hill as she confronts Josee when she’s been taken around in her carriage by a young neighbour. The other supporting roles are good as well.

If you are interested in an off-beat romantic drama full of fascinating characters which has an intelligent and insightful story then you will love it. I know I did.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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