Sunday, July 03, 2005

Be With You

I am going to confess that I am becoming a fan of Japanese romance films, with "Be With You" being the second of the genre I've seen in two consecutive days (The other being "Crying Out Love, In The Center Of The World"). But I think many of you in Singapore, being exposed to these 2 wonderful films, have already become converts yourselves too.

While similar in themes about love, and love lost, these 2 films shine in the presentation of picturesque scenes, capturing of the atmosphere, fleshing out its characters, and making every scene count towards the narrative - every scene serves a purpose, every pause punctuates the moment. What differs between these 2 are the settings - Be With You having a more "supernatural" element in its plot, and Crying Out probably a bit more anchored to reality / tragedy.

Death has taken away Mio from Takumi and 6 year old son Yuji, and it is no doubt that they miss their wife/mother dearly. They learn to encourage each other as they fend for themselves - Takumi suffering from a sort of psycho-motor illness which forces him to refrain from overexertion.

Before she departed, Mio had given her son Yuji a storybook, which pens at the end, that come the next rainy season, she'll be back from the Archive Star. It is this hope that Yuji clings onto, with Takumi going along with, even though he knows it's a tad impossible.

However, during a trip to an abandoned shed in the woods, where Yuji was searching for his and his mom's secretly buried time capsule, rainy season started, and to the surprise of both father and son, Mio reappeared, somewhat dazed. While the figure looked like her, she had arrived with no recollection of her past, unknown to her that she was married to Takumi, and had a child Yuji.

Father and son do not know what to make of it, but decide against telling anyone that Mio had returned (how would relatives and friends react, when they already had been to her funeral?). Also, they make it a point to keep it from Mio that she had already passed away, and are determined to make the best of her return into their lives, which definitely needed a woman's touch around the house.

Is this selfish? I do not think so. To lose a loved one so early, and given a second chance to live what should have been, what would you do? And with Mio back into their lives, everyone around Taku and Yuji could see tremendous positiveness in their outlooks.

Since Mio couldn't remember much about the past, she asked Taku to go through from the beginning, how they fell in love and got married. His retelling of the story from his point of view, made up about a third of the movie, as we journey back in time to their schooldays, one date, forty seven letters and a breakup, and husband and wife relive the days of sweet romance.

Will their happy days end? Since Mio explained before she initially left that she's only back for the rainy season, Taku and Yuji had made it an open secret in celebrating each rainy day, wishing that the 6 weeks rainy season will not go, and last forever. You know that it will end someday, and father and son have to go through the pain once again of losing Mio all over. If you know what the ending will be, will you still go through with it, despite the pain and disappointment at the end? This is the thought that runs through your mind as you watch their happy moments together unravel, while secretly crossing your fingers that the ending will change for the better.

But Mio chanced upon her diary, amongst the 47 letters buried in the time capsule Yuji eventually found, and learns of the inevitable. And from here, she takes charge of the situation, knowing that she couldn't be around longer than she wished to take care of her husband (and child), she teaches Yuji to cook and wash, and presumably other household chores as well, so that he could take care of his father. The strength of her love will make you ponder the efforts one would go to ensure that your loved ones are taken good care of once you're no longer around.

It is no spoiler to know that Mio did leave after 6 weeks (she's already dead, remember?), but the film doesn't end there. Taku found Mio's diary, and reading it brings about explanations of their early courtship days from her own point of view, which really is Kleenex time as Taku comes to understand the truth behind certain events. The twist at the end explains the phenomenon of her appearance in the rainy season, and the running theme of living a life knowing its ending, makes a comeback.

I haven't been disappointed with Japanese romances thus far, and it seems to me that every scene, every subplot, every trinket has a point, and are not for the sake of being there. Going full circle to realization seems a style they have mastered, which simply is amazing, in telling a simple tale a different, poignant way. The beautiful soundtrack adds depth and evokes the right emotions amongst audiences, and the main leads Yuko Takeuchi (Mio) and Shido Nakamura (Takumi) exudes commanding on-screen chemistry.

The kid Yuji, played by child actor Akashi Takei, at times seem like a character mix between the kid from Millions and Jerry Maguire, you know, the cute boy who makes you go "awww..." with each of his antics and love for his mom. And Yuji will make you feel no less with each expression of love and longing, and really tug your heartstrings at his calling his "Mama" in helpless efforts of bringing and wanting her back.

Based on a romance novel which I can't read during to my language inability, I am so going to own this DVD when it's out. Highly recommended movie to be watched in a theatre with a loved one, do not miss this!

If you know what the ending will be, will you still go through with it, despite the pain and disappointment waiting at the end? This thought that lingered throughout the movie stuck a chord in me. And those of you who know me, will know my answer - yes, I might be a sucker for that kind of punishment. 6 weeks is a luxury, I only had 15 minutes, and those 15 minutes lasted like an eternity that I'll forever treasure.

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