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Kimi no tomodachi

October 16, 2009

Kimi no tomodachi (Japan, 2008)

Ryuichi Hiroki’s career is certainly not one without development. In the 1980’s one could find his name attached to sadistic pink films, sometimes made under the alias Go Ijuin (also used by Genji Nakamura and Hitoshi Ishikawa). Fast forward two decades and Hiroki has become a pioneer in digital filmmaking in Japan. His masterful 2005 film It’s Only Talk is one of the best Japanese movies from the past 10 years. Now Hiroki has made a beautiful movie about friendship between kids. Kimi no tomodachi follows two girls who become friends at the age of 10. The main part of the film takes place 5 years later, the present day being yet another five years later. Both girls are sick or injured; Yuka (Ayu Kitaura) has a kidney disease, and Emi’s (Anna Ishibashi) leg was permanently damaged in a car accident.

While Yuka and Emi are the core of the film, the storyline almost unnoticeably introduces new characters and smaller branches. It’s not obvious from the beginning, but just like these shorter stories that aren’t always brought to a conclusion, the entire film is more about friendship than telling any specific storyline. This structure is one of the aspects that Hiroki handles well in a film that is relatively conventional, but greatly benefits from the director’s touch. Hiroki doesn’t turn the film into a sad sickness story, or the most typical kind of ”memories of the good old days” offering that Japan is so keen on producing nowadays. There are some unsuccessful parts – such as bullying scenes that play out like All About Lily Chou Chou – but the numerous long takes and beautiful digital cinematography create several terrific scenes. In many ways Kimi no tomodachi is reminiscent of Hiroki’s earlier but inferior film Love on Sunday, which also was a very mainstream oriented screenplay seen though Hiroki’s sharp lens. Kimi no tomodachi is a greatly enjoyable film, even if not as good as the director’s best efforts.

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