Today has been ‘cinema Saturday’ for me. This afternoon I went to the Watershed to see another of the Japanese films in the Japan Foundation’s East Side Stories series, and then one more in the evening. This afternoon’s film was Your Friends (きみの友だち / Kimi no Tomodachi), directed by Ryuichi Hiroki and based on a novel by Kiyoshi Shigematsu.
I’ll start with the title, as I find the translation interesting. In the cinema, before the film began, I overheard some people discussing the fact that ‘Kimi’ must be the character’s name, and it was about Kimi’s friends. It’s not. As far as I understand, ‘kimi’ is a way of saying ‘you’, especially used informally by young people. So, straight away from the original title we are able to get a feeling of youth and informality.
Your Friends is a slightly slow drama about young people dealing with life and friendships. The film is set in rural Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture and, as I always say when watching Japanese movies, it was nice to see the simple things like streets, houses (I love seeing a family gathered around a kotatsu!), local train stations, and schools. If you like to observe people going about their lives, this is a good movie for you.
The main character is introverted Emi Izumi, who we meet as an adult, working in a ‘free school’ for disabled children. A journalist named Nakahara comes to visit the school and take photos, and through their conversations and a series of flashbacks to various stages of Emi’s childhood, we come to learn why she says “I don’t believe in everybody. I just need the people close to me.” and why she takes photos of clouds.
At around the age of 10 Emi, who walks with crutches following a car accident, becomes friends with Yuka, a terminally sick child with a kidney disease. It’s an unusual friendship, but they remains side by side until high school simply because they “walk at the same pace”. Their friendship becomes so close that they alienate other children and can’t let anyone else into their world.
Your Friends is a film about childhood friendships, and encapsulates Japanese youth perfectly. We see not only Emi and Yuka, but also the other people around them, including Emi’s brother Bun, the star football player, and Hana, a girl with a psychogenic visual disorder who tries to befriend Emi when Yuka is sick.
This isn’t the happiest of films, but it is realistic and (for once!) I quite liked the ending. Also, unusually for most Japanese films I’ve seen, Your Friends has quite a good pop soundtrack. The main theme song, The Lucky One by Au Revoir Simone, was actually in English, and had very appropriate lyrics.
If you want a film to just lose yourself in, this is for you. Watching Your Friends was certainly a pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon, and it was nice to see a different, more ‘local’ side of Japan less often depicted on the big screen.
I couldn’t find a trailer with subtitles, but here’s the Japanese trailer.