WTF ASIA 255: First Love (2021)

The heck? How many Japanese movies featuring death and horrible fathers are called First Love? Oh, wait. This one is also called Hope? All right, fine.

Available in Canadathe United States, and perhaps a few other countries. Approximately 119 minutes.


Slow zoom in on a building. A university building. Oil Painting Department 2. A closeup on the window and…oh, there is a man on the floor…bloodied. He is dead.

Well, I wonder what happened.

After a gratuitously cool pan around the city at night, the movie introduces its protagonist, psychologist Makabe Yuki. She is on a radio program to talk about her work counseling children who social withdrawn and to promote her book about trauma. The movie doesn’t show much of the radio piece, only to show her saying that much of social withdrawal comes from the parent-child relationships, that parents may often think that they are doing the best that they can and blame the problems on their children.

Makabe Gamon is cooking dinner while the news is reporting on the death of painter and university lecturer Hijiriyama Naoto. The main suspect is his own daughter, Kanna. She has admitted to stabbing her father and has been cooperating with police, but says that it is their job to discover her motive. And there has been no public revelations after…THREE MONTHS? How is this news? I guess that the trial is coming?

Yuki arrives and Gamon turns the TV off. Not that it matters too much, as pretty much the first thing that she says is that she wants to interview Hijiriyama Kanna. People have written her off as a psychopath, but Yuki theorizes that something could have driven her to kill her father. Perhaps she is just confused and cannot express herself.

Great news. Uh…this guy tells Yuki that Kanna has agreed to the interview. Actually, she has read Yuki’s book. Not so great news. Kanna’s lawyer is Anno Kasho. He’s a top lawyer…so why does Yuki not look pleased. Does…she know him? Uh…yeah…sort of. No, it’s great.

Yuki goes to the Takahashi & Anno Law Office. Kasho greets her rather offhandedly, briefly looking up while typing something to say that it has been a long time…sister-in-law? Yuki…does not look happy to be here. She doesn’t greet him at all, but starts with Kanna. Kasho says that hers is a tricky case, unpredictable or rather extremely perverse, and dangerous if mishandled. He says that he is surprised that she would butt into this. Yuki says that Kanna had agreed to be interviewed, and perhaps will say things that she cannot say in court. Yuki hopes to be a friendly ear, her glare implying that Kasho will be less friendly. In that case, Kasho says, he cannot refuse. Yuki brings up Gamon. Kasho says that he has talked with his brother, who wishes him luck. Gamon never doubts the goodwill of others, which Anno admits makes him ashamed of himself. I am not sure if Yuki is very sympathetic to that.

Gamon has just finished taking family photos for…a family…when Yuki arrives. I guess he does his work at home? Anyways, Gamon asks how the meeting with Kasho went. She doesn’t quite answer. He says that his brother is objective and proficient; he will be a useful ally. As Gamon goes over photographs on his computer, Yuki asks if he wishes that he could take his own photos again. The real question is whether he resents being here at home while she does whatever outside. He thinks that that is silly to even consider.

Yuki goes to see Hijiriyama Kanna. She thanks Kanna for agreeing to the interview, saying that she does not need to talk if she feels nervous, and can end the interview at any time. So…um…Kanna remains silent…until she repeats what she said to the police: It’s your job to discover my motive. Except, she claims that the TV news made that up; she did not say anything so arrogant. She says that she herself cannot understand her own motive, and wishes that someone else would. But then she grins and calls herself a liar. She says that she spaces out when things don’t go her way and she doesn’t know what she does during those times. Yuki tries to assure Kanna that she is on her side, as is Mr. Anno. Kanna calls Kasho peculiar; he is good-looking, but twisted, as if he presumes that all women find him attractive. She starts speaking quickly and brightly. She asks if Yuki and Kasho are close, as Kasho had mentioned her being his brother’s wife before, even referring to her by name. So, they must be close, right? But why do they have different surnames? The scene ends before we hear if Yuki answers.

Later, Yuki gets a package with a note from Kanna. Kanna wrote a note thanking her for coming and apologizing for her impoliteness. She does not quite understand herself, but meeting Yuki has made her want to do so. She acknowledges that it is strange that she has not shown remorse over what happened, and asks Yuki to help her become a human who feels guilt.

Yuki goes to see Kasho, and tells him that Kanna experiences PTSD, which causes disassociation. She offers to pass on any information that she gets with Kanna’s permission and suggests that they cooperate, setting aside their personal circumstances. Kasho asks what she means by personal circumstances. Yuki turns to the people chatting in some other part of the room and stays quiet. I guess that these personal circumstances go beyond them being related by marriage. Well, moving along. Kasho says that Kanna’s mother is a witness for the prosecution. That is…not good news.

There is a news article out by someone claiming to have been Kanna’s lover…her slave, actually. After reading it, Yuki goes to see Kanna again. Kanna says that this person, Kagawa, was her college senior. She never really liked him, but he forced her to be his girlfriend and said that he would die if she left. So, she stayed with him for two-and-a-half years. Her previous boyfriend had been abusive, and Kagawa seemed like he was offering a sympathetic ear, someone she could confide in. But she eventually started feeling pressured into sleeping with him. Forced, actually. I am not sure if either of them acknowledge that this sounds exactly like rape, but Kanna twists the subject, asking if she was in the wrong for going to his apartment so much and, thus, implanting those urges within him. It is unclear whether she actually believes that this could be true or if she is repeating what she has been told.

Yuki changes the subject a bit, and asks if Kanna has ever been with someone whom she truly loved. Kanna is silent for a bit, and then softly says Yuji, from when she was in elementary school. He was a convenience store worker. He was gentle with her. He was her first love…when she was in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?  

Anyways, Kanna starts breathing really quickly and looks to be about to experience a panic attack. I guess that the interview is over.

Kasho calls Yuki to chide her for not being careful enough when engaging with Kanna when she is so delicate and unstable. Yuki pushes back, arguing that the reaction shows that there is a way to get through to her; that there are demons that she does not want to face, but has to do so in order to make progress. Kasho asks what brought on the panic attack in the first place, and Yuki says asking if she ever truly loved someone. That memory triggered her. Yuki wants to track down this Yuji and talk to him. Kasho…oh, the scene changes before we get his response.

Before tracking down Yuji, Yuki and Kasho track down Kagawa. He tells them that the news article wrote lies about the relationship. Oh, do tell. Well, according to him, he really loved her, but tried to dump her after she cheated on him. But she would cry and cry and sometimes cut her arms. Both Yuki and Kasho are surprised to hear about this, but Kagawa is surprised that they never noticed, not realizing that Kanna’s prison uniform covers her arms. Yuki asks if it is true that he and Kanna became close after she confided in him about an abusive ex-boyfriend. Yes. And did he coerce her into being intimate? No. He would never do that. She went to his apartment…and even smiled. No. He never forced her.

Kasho goes to see Kanno, who claims that Kagawa was lying about the smile. She thinks that Kasho is siding with Kagawa over her, his own client. She asks if all men are like that. Kanna tells Kasho that Kagawa had contacted her every day, calling her cute. He refused to wear protection during sex. He eventually tired of her. And then he left her. Kasho asked why she would put up with Kagawa if she did not love him. Kanno asks rhetorically if Kasho thinks that she could have turned to someone for help. Men start off acting like they care, but they only want sex. She looks at Kasho and asks if he is that way as well. She points out that he is wearing a different wristwatch from the one that he wore during his previous visit. Did a woman give it to him? She requests that he not flaunt it in front of her like some sort of trophy. She expresses doubts that he actually wants to save her. He says that he does, but she wants him to prove it. She screams at him to get her out of prison.

Yuki and Kasho go to see Hijiriyama Akina at oh, that is a nice house. Yuki asks her what Kanna’s relationship with her father was like. Akina says that it was a normal father-child relationship. Naoto did, however, oppose her dream of becoming a TV announcer, as he worried that she would disgrace his name. And, as her husband had an illustrious and hard-earned reputation, Akina sided with him. She says that he would have Kanno model for sketch classes at home from Year 4 of elementary school to Year 1 of junior high. Kanna was willing at first as long as the students made her look cute, but soon got cocky and refused to work without pay, sometimes just not showing up.  

Yuki asks if Akina has seen Kanna’s scars. Akina says that it was from a chicken that scratched her at school from around the time that she graduated from elementary school, after the trip to Hawai’i. A family trip to Hawai’i? Erm…no, Akina went there alone to attend a friend’s wedding. And when she returned, Kanna had a scar on her arm. Yuki asks if Akina noticed any scars after that and Akina starts getting defensive. Yuki says that she wants to know if Kanna was suffering any sort of emotional distress. Akina acknowledges that her husband was difficult, and that maybe her daughter had problems. But it was Kanna’s responsibility to do something about it. Yuki says that Kanna was a child and that parents should protect their children. Akina has had enough, and shouts that Kanna never obeyed her. If she hated her father, then she could have gone to boarding school. But she was weak. Kasho asks if Kanna actually said that she hated her father. Akina tries to calm down. She does not answer the question, instead saying that, despite their problems, Naoto did his absolute best as a father. He gave her everything and sent her to college. And Kanna repays him by murdering him. Once again riled up, Akin recalls that Kanna had returned home that day covered in blood, but without any tears. No apology. Akina tells them that she gives up; Kanna needs to realize her sins and pay for them until she dies.

That night, Kanna remembers one of those classes that her mother mentioned. She is standing there while men glare at her. Behind them, her father is telling them to glare at her even harder to…truly perceive their subject. That being her. She remembers him scolding her when she is unable to maintain her pose and forcing her arm back into position. She remembers him grabbing him from a mattress on the floor where she had been sleeping and locking her in a closet. She remembers running outside and cutting herself with a razor. She remembers opening the glove compartment to the car and seeing a bunch of photographs fall to the floor.

Yuki wakes up at her home office. It doesn’t seem to be that late, as Gamon is washing dishes. But perhaps she has been keeping long hours and her sleep schedule is all messed up. Something is weird…was…Yuki dreaming some of those memories?

Yuki goes to see Kanna again, and apologizes for disturbing her with insensitive questions. Kanna laughs, seeming to not remember any insensitive question. So…Yuki brings up Yuji, but Kanna claims to have no memory of a Yuji. Yuki changes the subject to the scars on her arms and the chicken. Yes, they were from a chicken.

Yuki goes to the convenience store from Kanna’s and asks if a Yuji worked there 10 years ago. The man asks for a surname, which Yuki cannot give. She walks out dejected when Kasho calls. He has found someone who took the class, but it was far away in Toyama. Having just come off a failure, Yuki offers to go there. Kasho expresses reservations that she is so eager to go just for this, but agrees to send her the information.

However much time later, Yuki tells Gamon that she is leaving. She asks if he wants her to buy anything special from Toyama, so he requests some local squid and sake. And…that’s all. She leaves and he goes back to his work…

Well, sort of. Gamon selects a folder from 1994 and looks at a photograph of what looks like him with his parents and brother. Everyone seems to have modest smiles except for young Kasho, who seems rather mopey. What was that about?

On the way to Toyama. And…oh, Kasho has decided to come along after all. Yuki seems uncomfortable with his being there, especially without letting her know. But they are working together, so she cannot really complain.

The two go to meet the former student, Namba Sumito. He is big in the pottery world and appears to be under the impression that they are here to discuss pottery. Kasho asks if he had started out in painting. He tells them that he did, but painting on big canvases wasn’t his thing, preferring little things like plates and cups. Kasho asks about Mr. Hijiriyama. Yes, Sumito was in his class once a week for a year. Yuki asks about Kanna. Sumito, who had been pretty open about talking, starts looking somber. He says that he found the whole thing shocking. Mrs. Hijiriyama would give them all homemade snacks after class. They seemed so nice. Kanna was adorable.

Yuki asks if Sumito still has any sketches from back then. He does, but he is a little embarrassed by them. He finds one of Kanna. She is posing…in front of two naked men. Uh…Kasho and Yuki are disturbed, but Sumito insists that they were placed in a manner that Kanna could not see them. Yuki asks how many students were there. Maybe seven or eight? Any female students? No.

At dinner, Yuki and Kasho go over what Sumito had told them. Yuki says that those classes must have been unbearable for an adolescent girl. Kasho agrees. A father’s role is as protector, but Naoto just observed his daughter. Then he theorizes that Yuki had already known. Yuki is confused. Isn’t that why she is doing this, he asks. Because she and Kanno are alike in that way. She bristles at him calling her Yuki and tells him to stop. He counters that he cannot call her sister-in-law. She says nothing. Kasho asks if his brother knows…knows what? Oh, knows about Yuki’s father. If he knows, then it was not from her, as she does not want to unsettle or disgust him. Kasho insists that Yuki is not disgusting; her father was the disgusting one.

Flashback to when Yuki was 20 years old. She is all dressed up for her Coming of Age Day, but her father is working. Her mother expresses annoyance, but Yuki accepts that he cannot help it. Well, now that Yuki is an adult, her mother can finally tell her something…about her father. When Yuki was young, he often went to the Philippines and bought girls there. Sometimes as young as 13. Yuki, disturbed asks only why she would tell her this now. Her mother says that Yuki will have relationships with men, and it is important that she know what they are like. That said, her mother tells her not to tell her father that she knows about this, as if this is a request to get something from the supermarket. Her mother tells her that she and her father had already worked this out and he is very regretful.

Flashback within a flashback. Young Yuki recalls even younger Yuki opening the car’s glove compartment to see it full of photographs. Young Yuki gets out of the car, even though it is raining, and almost retches. Present day Yuki tells Kasho that she could not understand her father, nor could she comprehend her mother’s forgiveness.

It is raining when Yuki and Kasho try to walk to the…train? Wherever. Something…happens that makes Yuki stare at Kasho. He notices and tells her to stop. She turns away nervously, but now he is looking at her. He gets closer and pulls her over so that she faces him, but she runs past him. And runs. Erm…maybe she wasn’t nervous. Maybe she was terrified. Of Kasho?    

Another flashback. It is raining and Young Yuki has neither a raincoat nor umbrella. She looks around and sees other people hanging out with friends or family, but she is alone. A man approaches her, having noticed that she has not moved, and offers her his umbrella. She declines and starts walking off, but the man takes her arm and asks her if she is going somewhere. Not really. So, going nowhere. He asks her if she wants to actually go somewhere. And this is how Yuki met Kasho.

The two go to dinner. It turns out that they are both third-year at the same college, though they never saw each other as Kasho hates to stick around. Also, he thought that Yuki looked like a lonely freshman…hmmm. During the little get to know you session, he notes that she lives within easy commuting distance from her parents…so why does she not just live with them? She dodges the question and changes the subject to him. Well, he lives with his aunt and uncle. And brother, though technically cousin. His parents are dead…well…his mother is missing, maybe she is alive and living with her fifth husband, as she was always quick to run off with guys and neglecting her own son to the point where he would have starved at five.

Kasho then stares at Yuki, as if his story of woe means that he is entitled to hear hers. But, no, he just wants to neg Yuki about her hair. So, he takes her to the back of the restaurant and cuts her hair with kitchen scissors. With her permission, of course…he asks when they are already there and he is holding some of her hair. He starts cutting and…she actually starts to smile and laugh a little.

Kasho and Yuki take a bus to a town by the sea. They go around the town and towards the water. Yuki has trouble on the rocks, so Kasho holds out his hand. Yuki hesitates the offer for help, but then takes it.

The two have such a great time in town that they are late the last bus back. Yuki grabs Kasho’s hand; maybe they can prevent the bus from going. Kasho says that it is okay. They can stay somewhere here. Yuki is a bit nervous, but the bus is already leaving. So, they go to a hotel. As Kasho takes a shower, Yuki notices that his phone has a picture of some random kid. Kasho, once again dressed, catches her and teases her for being naughty. He tells her that his brother, a photographer, took that photo. He is pretty well-regarded, even in his twenties, and has an autumn exhibit. Kasho shows her a bunch of his brother’s photos that he had kept on his phone. He recalls them playing a bunch when they were young and Yuki notices that his face lit up; it shows that there is real love there for the man whom he calls his brother. She asks about his uncle and aunt…erm…they are good people, but it is not the same. His face is not as light anymore.

Yuki goes to the bathroom sink to pour water for coffee. Then Kasho goes up behind her and embraces her. He turns her around for a kiss. At first it seems like she is going to resist, but she doesn’t, and even pushes in a bit.

The two are on the bed and Kasho’s shirt is off. Yuki seems…a little less comfortable regarding where this is going. He…goes in and…it hurts her. She tells him, but he just gets more forceful. She tells him again, and he stops. He gets off her and apologizes. He says…that he doesn’t understand this; he is way into double digits and this has never happened before. Jeez…regardless of exactly what he is referring to, that kind of negates the apology right there.

Kasho tries to kiss Yuki again and she asks if he is addicted to sex because Mommy didn’t love him. Well…um…the Kasho starts to strangle her. Or…no he is strangling her for almost twenty seconds. Then he gets out of bed and punches a wall, leaving Yuki to cry alone.  

Still the flashback, but some time later. Yuki is walking down the street when she notices a promotional flyer for Gamon’s photo exhibition. She goes to look and, seems to be the only one there. So, she can comfortably look at all of the photos at her leisure. Yuki looks at one picture of a girl and her father. It is just a portrait of the two of them in front of a car, looking happy. She starts tearing up. This is the life that she never had. A happy daughter of a caring man. Or are those smiles just a front as well? Gamon approaches her and asks her to write down her name and address in the guest book so that he can inform her of future exhibitions.

Yuki puts down her address and Gamon notes that that is near a university. Yuki says that she is a student there. Gamon notes that his brother is studying law there. Yuki treats that as new information, saying nothing about them having met before. She looks at the poster near the front and realizes that this was the last day of the exhibition. Gamon tells her that he is actually going to close up in five minutes. Then she looks right at him and says that his photos are wonderful. She turns around to leave, but then he starts to say something to her…

End of flashback.




So, first off, this is a movie about abuse. Abuse of women and girls by predatory men. And trauma. But…it has been said that it was filtered through mainstream sensibilities, somewhat similar to A Family. So, it is good for tearjerking entertainment. Whether it is a properly sensitive or accurate depiction of these situations is another matter. While there is sympathy for the characters and a sense of anger on their behalf, the movie does not exactly move beyond an acknowledgement that this is terrible. Yes, it is all very sad. But what can be done but silently cry…or get violent?

The society presented in this movie is a cruel one. Or at least is one with pockets of extreme cruelty that justice does not touch. But, like, very very very much so. Yuki finds out early that her father was a pedophile. Luckily, she is not his target, but she felt that she could be at any moment. And her mother? Instead of protecting her, she cynically told her daughter that men were terrible and she just had to accept it in silence. All of this behavior is considered bad, but it is also scandalous. Society may want to enforce justice, but avoiding scandal, or at least containing scandal, takes priority.

Kanna’s father pressured her into extremely inappropriate situations with his male students and no one resisted this. Kanna’s mother did nothing to protect her, staying away when those things happened so that she can feign ignorance, and then calling her daughter a liar. The only people who were nice to her merely acted nice to take advantage of her vulnerability. All of her experiences with men have involved some kind of abuse, manipulation, and mistreatment. It could be her past experience, or just her hyper-awareness that she can pick up that her own lawyer has a past. And that past involves Yuki.

Yuki and Kasho met in university and hit it off almost immediately. They went on a couple dates and they went well, or it seemed like it was going well. On their date, Kasho coaxed Yuki out of her shell and out of her comfort zone. Well, that is one way of describing it. Another way would be that Kasho had first noticed her alone and seemingly vulnerable, easy pickings. He repeatedly pushed at her limits, seeing how far he could go and whether he could go farther. He forced himself upon her and then tried to kill her. 

So…is Kasho her first love? Or is it Gamon, who seems to be the only man who proved to be genuinely good? And who just happened to be Kasho’s brother?  

There is, yes, a bit of contrived coincidence that appears to be reverse-engineered for the sake of character issues. Yuki falls for the brother of the man who abused her? A bit odd. That Yuki and her brother-in-law independently approaching the same person for their professions? That is stranger. And those two things combined is quite a bit to accept. But it sets up the tension of the story.

Gamon is quietly an interesting character, at least with his small screentime. While Kasho loves to pressure, pry, and push, Gamon is hands-off to the point of being distant. He is interested in Yuki’s life, but not necessarily curious. If she tells him something, then that is something that he was meant to know. Otherwise, no. Gamon may know that Yuki had gone on a date with his brother that went so badly, that she dislikes being around him. But he doesn’t pry; it is none of his business unless one of them makes it so. He denies feeling any sort of resentment for working at home while his wife goes off doing whatever for work. He cooks, he cleans the dishes, and he is fine with it. Before Yuki, he had spent his adulthood going to other countries and taking pictures of children smiling no matter their circumstances.

Yuki loves Gamon, but cannot be honest with him about his brother. She claims that it is because she does not want to unsettle him. Perhaps. Perhaps she also worries what the fallout would be. Perhaps there is a fear that Gamon would resent her for forcing him to take a side. So, she doesn’t and, thus, he doesn’t. This tension may not have been as much of an issue were the two men not related. They do not necessarily need to interact regularly like friends, but there is something that bonds them together through obligation, whether they like it or not. And Yuki may worry what challenging that bond could do. Perhaps she might not worry quite as much about telling Gamon or not if Kasho was a stranger or a friend. Yuki’s experience with him would be either his business or none of his business, depending on her decision. Maybe. Maybe not. But that is not the case. And even if he does take her side, confronting his brother or simply cutting him off, Kasho is powerful enough to cause trouble for her and the society presented in this movie is unlikely to protect her. So, she stays silent.

That silence becomes a challenge when the two are forced to work together. Perhaps Yuki would have hesitated in approached the case had she known that Kasho was Kanna’s lawyer. And perhaps Kasho would not have represented Kanna had he known that Yuki would step in. But here they are. Yuki has serious reservations about Kasho acting as Kanna’s lawyer, especially once she learns about Kanna’s backstory of abuse. How could a violent abuser like him have the necessary compassion or empathy to effectively represent Kanna. What if he tries to exploit her? But he is such a respected lawyer that she cannot challenge his taking the case without revealing her own abuse at his hands. Meanwhile, Kasho is contemptuous of Yuki’s empathy, believing that her connecting to Kanna on a personal level compromises professionalism. Her doubts about his abilities to represent his client strikes as complete hypocrisy. But attempts to block her from intervening in the case may be the straw that finally gets her to go public about what he did to her. At the same time…does not Kasho kind of see something of himself in Kanna? Did he fantasize killing his own mother for what she did to him? He certainly saw his mother in Yuki when he was trying to kill her.

The movie is also about the limits of truth itself. At this point, Kanna’s reliability has been pretty much shot, at least officially so. She has made several cryptic statements and then changed her story over and over again. But it was all psychological coping mechanisms. Yes, she lied a lot, but some of it was because her mind was protecting herself from the destructive memories. And other times she lied because other people had punished her for telling the truth. The truth brings her nothing but pain, and it is only when the lies finally threaten to hurt her worse that clarity emerges.

There is also the theme of smiling. Kanna smiles and titters frequently during her interviews with Yuki. It is all obviously fake and it may sound like psychopathic behavior at first. Later, it is revealed to be coping mechanism. In acting that way, she is trying to please those who hurt her, even though it is only Yuki there. In pleasing others, she avoids direct punishment, even though it results in her accepting her exploitation and blame for everything that happens to her. To smile is to consent to abuse, but to frown is to provoke further trouble on top of the abuse. So, she decides to smile. While it may be transparently fake, it is a fake that those who benefit from the lie can accept. But she is hardly alone. Yuki smiles all the time in front of Gamon. Is it only because he makes her happy or is it a way from shielding him from the problems in her life? Gamon seems to love smiles. He managed to coax one out of Kasho when they were kids and taking family photos. And when he grew up, he would travel around the world, taking photographs of children regardless of their circumstances. Were their smiles genuine or did they also have to be coaxed? Are there stories about his pictures similar to Kanna’s?

I will say that, for whatever reason, the plot takes a turn just under 2/3 of the way through that…stretches credibility. Yes, on top of the coincidences that I had brought up already. I am not entirely sure the reasoning for that, though I have a few suspicions. It does not derail the movie, but it is an odd decision. Instead of confronting society for its apathy and antipathy, perhaps making suggestions, it relitigates details of this individual case. Okay. This is about the uselessness of knowing the truth, so why not make the truth as inconvenient as possible?

All of this leads to a conclusion that may be seen as…incomplete, ambiguous, or a betrayal. It seems to just end with…what would have happened happening, society moving on, and the characters doing so as well. Little changed except for details in a few relationships. But a major thing that was going to happen blatantly gets derailed, leaving that thread hanging in ambiguity. It is as if one theme of the movie completely steamrolls over the other one, and there is nothing that can be done.  Overall, the status quo returns, still as fragile as ever, but just as upheld. Things are bad, the truth doesn’t matter, and justice is always elusive, So, all that one can do is overcome one’s personal trauma and find peace within. A psychological solution. Then…what was the point of this? Just let the audience cry for a couple of hours and then just go on with their lives as if they did their service? Well…I guess that it did its job with me if that was the purpose. But beyond the entertainment value as a tearjerker, would a movie like this do more harm than good? I don’t know. I am not really in any position to judge this movie by such metrics, as my favorite movie is Memories of Matsuko and its take on abuse could be said to be much worse.

I have to say, for a movie with such ugly subject matter, this movie is gorgeously filmed. There are a whole bunch of establishing shots that make both urban and rural Japan look beautiful. Like flowers or something. At the same time, there are some…erm…choices. The characters talk about how traumatizing and stressful it would be to have a girl pose in front of naked men…and then the movie shows it. Multiple times. They are short shots, but I cannot imagine that they did not take long to film. There are also brief shots of the photographs falling out of the glove compartment. In this instance, show don’t tell does not apply. There is one shot in particular where…there is nothing necessarily actionable, but I am not sure of the actual real-life story behind that photograph. It is one thing for Shimamoto Rio write these things in her award-winning novel and for Asano Taeko to write these things into her script. It is another thing Tsutsumi Yukihiko to actually film these things. I would like to believe that he made sure that they were filmed ethically, given the subject matter of the movie and those things in particular, but I am not certain. Still, look at this shot of the prison.

Uh…yeah. This was a movie that I liked. Would I recommend it? Erm…uh…I liked it.



WTF ASIA 256: Kuei-Mei A Woman (Taiwan: 2021, approx. 121 minutes)


Available in Canadathe United States, and perhaps a few other countries.


WTF ASIA 257: Silenced (South Korea: 2011, approx. 125 minutes)


Available in Australia, CanadaFrance, the Netherlandsthe United Kingdom, the United States, and perhaps a few other countries.