Forgive our, ahem, wild imagination, but we believe this Japanese film has got what it takes to play up the kink factor. Or a sensational crime thriller that involves sex, drugs and murder.
19-year-old university student Fumi sees a nine-year-old girl Sarasa in the park on a rainy day. Soaking wet, Sarasa tells Fumi she lives with her aunt but does not want to return home. What does the teenager do? He brings her to his apartment and they begin living together. We are assuming that most of us would have brought the kid to the police station.
Two months pass as we see Fumi and Sarasa having meals and reading books together. The relationship is platonic and the girl’s choice to stay with the guy seems voluntary. We also learn that Sarasa does not want to return to her aunt’s place because she was sexually abused by her cousin.
One day, when the duo are hanging out in the park one day, where Sarasa is having a relaxing swim in the lake while Fumi simply watches, the police appear. He is arrested for kidnapping and becomes labelled by the public as a dangerous paedophile. No thanks to the countless media reports, the girl is seen as a poor victim.
Fast forward another 15 years. Sarasa seems to be leading a normal life, working part time at a restaurant and living with her fiancé. Fumi has also seemingly moved on – he is the owner of a charming cafe and has an adult girlfriend. The two eventually meet and the past catches up with them.
So you see, this movie, based on Yu Nagira’s bestselling novel, Ruro No Tsuki, could have been a thrilling drama filled with high-strung emotions, but Korean-Japanese filmmaker Lee Sang-il’s latest work is not that kind of movie. Given the questionable subject matter about forbidden love, the film takes a very measured approach and the result is a very subdued film that makes see unconventional relationships from a very normal perspective. There is no exploitative sensationalism, just scene after scene presented with sophisticated elegance.
The 150-minute runtime may be a test of patience for edgy viewers, because there are many sequences that could have been shortened or omitted. But if you’re in the mood to appreciate the gorgeous cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo, then every second of the slow burning film is a visual treat. You would be enchanted by the light shining through the characters’ apartments and the natural glow of sunlight in the outdoor scenes. It makes Japan a really beautiful country to live in.
Kudos to the ensemble cast as well. Suzu Hirose takes on the role of adult Sarasa, and she makes the character relatable despite the debatable choices she made as a child. The young Sarasa is played by Tamaki Shiratori, and the actress has an enigmatic charisma that makes you empathise with her. Then there is Tori Matsuzaka who portrays Fumi, who has been hiding a dark secret. When the truth is finally revealed in the film’s last act, you may even feel a lump in your throat.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Given that the male protagonist of this Japanese film has a Lolita complex, it could have been a movie filled with exploitative sensationalism. But the result is an elegant and beautiful slow-burner that attempts to explore a complicated subject matter.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 7.5/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10