Plot summary: (from A Nutshell Review)
Juri (Niko Narumi, you’ll be amazed that she’s only so young, but yet has the capability to take on a character that so layered and yet so subtle in her delivery) plays an ideal girl at home and in school, but this facade is quickly stripped away early in the movie, as we see her loathe her parent’s bickering at home, while putting up a false front of a happy, supportive family to the outside world. In the movie, the spotlight is also shared by fellow classmate Hinako (Atsuko Maeda), a popular girl who in a twist of fate, becomes the victim of classroom politics and bullying. Mere acquaintances, they share a poignant conversation just after junior school graduation, before going their separate ways.
The story then fast forwards 2 years later, and Juri, out of curiousity, looks up and emails Hanako, who apparently doesn’t seem to remember her, or their conversation. And thus begins a reintroduction and attempts to build a friendship between the two in what is probably one of the most layered stories I’ve experienced in recent times. It’s almost like kueh-lapis, where each layer can be peeled apart and reveals another understanding at a different level. It tells of the story in three ways, through exchanges of email (more on this later), as the catalyst and fuel for creative writing, and of course, in the character’s real lives. Juri and Hinako wear different masks to play different roles, consciously and subconsciously, and with each being a projection of their artificially created self, there’s no denying just who’s playing what role, and questions of whether they’re relishing these roles are posed, and when do you know to stop and become yourself, truly?
Watching the narrative unfold was part of the fun, as techniques such as panel in panel, and split screens, are used to simultaneously present to the audience the different character’s action / reaction at the same point in time. Not to mention that the shots are beautifully rendered, with text messages from mobile phones bringing to mind Eric Khoo’s Be With Me. In true Ichikawa style, the pacing is deliberately slow, and the wonderful soundtrack comprises of eclectic pop tunes as well as quiet contemplative pieces, all of which I thought complimented the movie very well.
2.51GB | 1 h 37 min | 1280×720 | mkv