Changing Faces with Asako I & II

5 Feb

Image result for asako i & iiBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Remaining shows at the Victoria Film Festival
February 5 | 9:15 PM | Capital 6
Victoria, BC

Presented by The Japan Foundation.
Tickets available online or at the door.

Idealized romances are a figment of the Hollywood imagination. To find that one true love is a subject for plenty of films, and in Asako I & II, this strange title suggests the title character (played with naïve innocence by Erika Karata) will see plenty of change in her life. She’s a doting figure who falls for Baku (Masahiro Higashide) like the best romantic tale from the golden age of cinema, complete with fireworks, and this drifter gives this film a plot.

Flash forward two years, the young lady is enjoying a simple life in the big city of Tokyo. She moved away from home (Osaka) to get away and not deal with the heartbreak. A chance meeting with Ryôhei (also played by Higashide), a young executive in a sake company, shows she has not gotten over that first love. She falls for this new man because he resembles that former beau. Ryôhei never asked about former boyfriends or her past. The next few years are skipped to give a sense of time passing but Asako eventually has to revisit the ghosts of her past.

The chemistry between performers Karata and Higashide is sweet. When considering Masahiro has two play two extremes, his screen presence outshines Karata’s, whose presence is a lot more passive.

This film is a romantic melodrama which examines relationships as a whole. It’s not so much with unrequited love, but rather about conformity. Both sides have to make that relationship work instead of one. Should half not do the work, the tendency is for that companionship to fall apart. The ideas presented are thoughtful because moving forward just becomes a lot more difficult. Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi shares co-writing credit with Sachiko Tanaka, and their screenplay is bittersweet and smart enough as it offers no easy solutions in what makes any relationship, romantic or not, last. We can only examine the elements that define happiness and hope we do not fall in the same trap as Asako’s.

3½ Stars out of 5

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