Love Life

Love Life
Love Life
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What do we do when tragedy strikes at our doorsteps? How would we handle it if this ever occurs in our family? Grief is personal to each of us. The human response, though, isn’t as clear-cut as wrong or right. This sentiment is over-emphasized in Love Life, a recent reflective movie from Japan that will make you cry and probably never want to let your loved ones go.

Kōji Fukada (Harmonium, A Girl Missing) is a skilled filmmaker-writer who has used original techniques for storytelling and making films in his latest piece that leaves viewers pondering about the complex love story he wove hours after the final credits have rolled.

We can safely say Love Life should be included into the list of great Japanese movies recently released. Here’s what we thought.

With such title as Love Life, one might think of Anna Kendrick’s Max series with its critically acclaimed first season. However, this gripping new Japanese tale was titled after an Akiko Yano’s hit song from back in the nineties. The film turns out to be about how complicated love and life are themselves and tells the complexities that are associated with it. Don’t get put off by how quiet and slow-burning Love Life is — there are some shocking twists ahead.

One such twist comes later on at a party held by people living in an urban Japanese neighborhood seen at the start of this film. Taeko (Fumino Kimura) had been staying calmly with Jiro (Kento Nagayama), her husband, while caring for another man’s child who was born before she met Jiro until now. They open up celebrating Jiro’s father’s birthday – why does disaster always happen on “happy” occasions?

Filmmaker Fukada knows how to create realistic and grounded scenarios without relying on dramatic music cues or cheesy camera angles for building tension around a dramatic scene like this one. The result of this terrible incident is shown with tenderness as Taeko and Jiro reunite with the persons they once loved during the grieving process. What’s that saying, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us”.

Yet another twist comes in here. Park (Atom Sunada), who is Taeko’s ex boyfriend that comes into view soon thereafter, happens to be her kid’s father. He seems like a homeless person and he is deaf, but Taeko feels she can’t afford not to do anything for him. And this is where Love Life continues to stand out from the other tragedy-laced dramas out there: Even before we meet Park, we could sense tensions between Taeko and Jiro’s parents at the birthday party. Fukada has done it so cunningly that it is not spelt out for us thereby enabling us to think or even reflect on our own family dynamics.

Besides, Love Life handles its deaf character gracefully, while language barriers are explored several times throughout the movie symbolically.

The scene that will stick with you forever occurs towards the end of third act when a tortured Taeko finds herself in what appears an impossible situation. Her ex-lover who is deaf named Park deceived her because he wanted his benefit now; hence she had no way but ending up at Park’s second son’s wedding ceremony.

Here is someone who knows that this sequence of events has made her question those who profess to “love” her. So, is it true love after all? What about Jiro, her own husband, who also lied back at home?

She herself wonders about the concept of “life” which brought her here after tragedy. That’s why its title is thus. Hence when rain starts falling and there is music in the atmosphere what does one do? One dances. Taeko remains staring as she gradually starts swinging to the tunes from the wedding while it rains on her face. It’s not a little bit powerful.

This makes sense in terms of the movie being called “a dance.” The film effortlessly goes from silent contemplation to light comedy, through familial chit chat and beyond. On a side note; recall Sam Mendez’s 1999 American Beauty where a floating plastic bag was seen dancing? Remember that dangling CD-rom outside Taeko & Jiro’s apartment – watch for it again at some point on your way back after recalling symbolism in Love Life: It stays floating unattached reflecting any kind of lighting unfavorably highlighting occurrence at some point when Jiro unknowingly notices Park getting involved with Taeko again privately.

And finally, who says non-Marvel films never have post-credits scenes? As you think you have witnessed everything concerning their marriage before and post-tragedy something new emerges when they return to Taeko & Jiro’s apartment sitting separately but silently. Is this forever or temporary? You decide!

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