Sunday, June 28, 2009

Threads of Destiny (Akai Ito / 赤い糸)

Bound Together

From Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World to Sky of Love, it's almost a given to have a local release of the hottest Japanese teenage romance movie in Singapore. After all, it seemed like the Koreans have fizzled out, while the Japanese are still going on strong in this genre as far as local box office releases are of any indication. Given novels that are churned out and translated for the big screen, there's no lack of new genre material, and with up-and-coming stars waiting in the wings, there's no better way to get them acquainted with audiences through films that paint a saccharine sweet picture of Love.

There are plenty of cliché moments that one would expect from a Japanese romance, and Threads of Destiny is no different, having its title already telling you that Fate is a major player in allowing development of characters and the plot to stick to a formula that manipulates your emotions, from seething with anger, to reaching out for that tissue. Someone once told me that there's no need to have characters explicitly declare their love for each other, as a more subtle, restrained approach that the Japanese ones take, will work more wonders. That's so true of a film like this one.

One would be surprised that the film is actually a “middle section” sandwiched between its television series starring the same cast, picking up from, and trailing off for the TV series to continue, but fret not as the film is quite standalone. I particularly marvelled at the way novelist Mei's internet tale had planted a very simple back story for her characters to build from. In many ways, it's very much superior as a gimmick than local romantic film The Leap Years ever could be, basing it on an event that took place on a leap year, and director Shosuke Murakami's deft handling of flashbacks on that premise that worked wonders, before leaving it to the coda at the end to finally provide a detailed, and full account. The pace was remarkably lightning fast, and yet being able to jam pack the narrative with plenty of dramatic incidents to move the story forward in an engaging manner, being cautionary on harmful drug use, and the nature of a violent relationship, one which will draw some surprises and anger at the same time.

Schools are a hotbed for relationships to develop, and Fate will always have a field day with its messing around with a whole of characters in forming triangles and rectangles. Centering around the affections between Atsushi Nishino (Junpei Mizobata) and Mei Takemiya (Nao Minamisawa) and their group of middle school friends, it soon becomes a web of messy emotions that led to heartbreak, misunderstandings and perceived backstabbing, before one of them is ordered to be out of the equation for the greater good. Just what this is would be saved for a revelation later on, but the narrative will have the star crossed lovers spend considerable their screen time apart from each other, if only for you to root for them to be together as their personal lives begin to spiral a little out of control.

Then again, the notion of true love is not always requiring to be together all the time, allowing room for a budding romance to grow, and is an important lesson that everyone who's in a relationship will attest to, and learn to manage as well. It'll also leave you wondering about things like pining for someone, promises of everlasting love/protection or to go with the next best alternative just because time had presented that bit of convenience. As the saying goes, what's yours will be yours, and destiny has its hand in ensuring that. A little bit contrived (and something I don't really believe in) but that's the mantra you have to buy into. Incidents presented here aren't too far fetched though, dealing with topics such as drug abuse and domestic violence issues, the latter seemingly running parallel to the recent Chris Brown-Rihanna bust up, pat right down to the defense of that act of violence.

One can be thankful that there's no clichéd, staple illness to spoil the works here, though the ending might prove a little unsatisfying given the way it had built up, and the cliffhanger that you're left in. Recommended? Certainly, especially after the trailer had been cut quite haphazardly and unappealing. And given the nature the film is designed, I'm more than curious to follow up on the television series to see what happens next in the lives of Atushi and Mei.

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