Friday, June 4, 2021

The Real Thing Review: A Complex and Largely Portioned Slice of Life

Win Morisaki	...	Tsuji Kazumichi Kaho Tsuchimura	Kaho Tsuchimura	...	Hayama Ukiyo Shôhei Uno	Shôhei Uno	...	Hayama Tadashi Kei Ishibashi	Kei Ishibashi	...	Hosokawa Naoko Akari Fukunaga	Akari Fukunaga	...	Fujitani Minako Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Yukiya Kitamura	Yukiya Kitamura	...	Wakita Shin'ichi Shûgo Oshinari	Shûgo Oshinari	...	Mineuchi Daisuke

Release date: June 4, 2021
Running time: 232 minutes
Written and Directed by: Koji Fukada
Cast: Win Morisaki, Kaho Tsuchimura, Kei Ishibashi, Shugo Oshinari, Akari Fukunaga, Shohei Uno

After a floundering toy salesman rescues a beguiling woman whose car was stuck on the train tracks, she inadvertently whisks him into an epic series of misadventures that turn his life upside down. While his once humdrum routine was already complicated by two female co-workers, he soon finds himself entrenched with gangsters, strange interlopers, kidnapping, and other sundry crimes. Singular auteur Koji Fukada (A Girl Missing) marks his first time adapting someone else’s work to the screen by bringing Mochiru Hoshisato’s  popular manga to life replete with his patently idiosyncratic and lively take on human nature, fatalism, and true love. 

Directed by  Kôji Fukada	Writing Credits   Mochiru Hoshisato	...	(comic)   Shintaro Mitani	...	(screenplay) (as Shintarô Mitani) & Kôji Fukada	...	(screenplay)
The real thing is both epic and understated.  Epic because the film spans almost four hours, giving you a good look into the lives and loves of the various characters.  The film has a simple style that is probably the result of the underlying manga it was adapted from.  No one in this story has a grand or over the top life, it feels like a film with characters that might actually exist.  But despite the simplicity of the setup, the film has some very complex characters.  I loved that it looked at a nontraditional relationship, with two main characters living together in an arrangement that eschewed marriage.  An open relationship in a Japanese film seems like something more modern and unconventional, and I liked that The Real Thing handled it so well.  And I also appreciated the amount of time I got to spend with everyone as it really let you see these characters more deeply.  The film is almost a mini-series, with the viewers experiencing growth and complexity.  

And this growth allows it to tackle some complex aspects of Japanese life and culture.  It looks at work-relationship attitudes, debt and the underworld of Japan, some toxic attitudes towards people, and the keeping up of appearances.  It also looks at some aspects of work life such as taking blame for mishaps and the sometimes blended work / friendship spectrum.  And underlying all of this, it looks at relationships: casual relationships, work relationships, toxic relationships, manipulative ones, unfulfilled relationships, and combinations of all of those.  But overall, this film has a very interesting representation of a normal life.  The duality is what is so great about this: the characters all seem to live relatively normal lives but they get into complicated situations while still maintaining those.  

But what makes this film so special is also something that can be a turn off.  As I mentioned, the movie is a long one which lets you get a deep sense of the characters.  But it also didn't feel like it needed to be the full four hours long.  It seems like it could have been cut considerably as some parts in the middle drag.  I did not mind this but I could see why someone might come away not enjoying a Titanic length film.  And the original interactions with the two main characters are relatively painful to watch.  I didn't feel the attraction between them as they both seemed to be not know what they want or be able to function together.  Now granted, this allows for a lot of growth to happen in the series as they both learn about themselves and what they are looking for in life.  But it might lead some viewers to turn off the film before it gets to the most important and interesting part.  However, for those that stick with this movie, you'll find a wonderful film about life, love, and second chances.

The Real Thing is a wonderful slice of life with complex characters and plenty of drama, looking at life and relationships in modern Japan.   

Watch it.

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The Real Thing is available on June 4, 2021 via Virtual Cinema, VOD, and digital platforms.  For showtimes, click here.

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