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  1. Published on: 09/11/2017 01:58 PMReported by: Film Critic
    Plot: A lonely Japanese office lady takes an English class and suddenly embarks on a quest to Southern California.

    With this film doings its rounds across several film festivals in 2017 and not looking like there will be any general release until next year, I was fortunate enough to check this out before the end of the year at the Leeds International Film Festival.

    I knew very little about this going into this screening. But what I did know, was that this was a feature directorial debut for Atsuko Hirayanagi. Also, following in the footsteps of Damien Chazelle, this story was original a short.

    It starts out as a strange quirky comedy and I was fearing the gags would not suit well to a Western audience. But the more I absorbed it and gave it a chance, the more endearing the story and the characters were getting.
    Then the second half, becomes a fun and surprisingly emotional road-movie that gave this film some depth and enhanced all the performances to a much greater level.

    Props to the cast for their work as not only were they great performances, but I felt they all transitioned well when the tone shifted. Shinobu Terajima is brilliant in this. It is a proper fully-fledged character that goes quite a journey. You feel sympathy for her, you laugh with her and even root for her at times, despite some of her decision might sit well in the real world.
    Kaho Minami and Koji Yakusho were top supports and had strong noticeable chemistry with Terajima. It was to see a familiar face in the form of Josh Hartnett. I felt he gave the film a nice Western edge to it and I think it helped made the film a bit more accessible as the story moved along.

    There isn't much else outside of the story and characters that is worth mentioning. However, it was shot really well, especially in the many evening scenes.

    As for the negatives, the story does make sudden and dramatic tangents that felt unexpected and almost out of place. It was like it was trying to expand its themes. But it didn't quite work for me. Those moments do make a bit more sense towards the end. But not completely, and therefore effected my overall views.

    So while the story felt a bit strange at first, if you give it a chance, this ends up being a really charming comedy drama with top performances from many well developed characters.

    Shinobu Terajima is great throughout and carries the film so well, especially in the second half. Kaho Minami, Josh Hartnett and Koji Yakusho are top supports that made it a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

    Some of the comedic moments might not transcend well in general audiences. But I think the charm of the story should win people over enough and become a little gem.

    Rating: 7/10
     
    Last edited by Film Critic; 11/11/2017 at 11:48 AM.

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