REVIEW: DVD Release: Kakera: A Piece Of Our Life

Film: Kakera: A Piece Of Our Life
Release date: 21st June 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 107 mins
Director: Momoko Ando
Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Eriko Nakamura, Tasuku Nagaoka, Ken Mitsuishi
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Romance
Studio: Third Window
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Haru (Hikari Mitsushima) is a naïve young university student stuck in a troubled relationship with a misogynistic boyfriend. Sat alone in a coffee shop, she is approached by Riko (Eriko Nakamura), who is an open minded and confident young woman - hitting on Haru with no reservations. Not considering herself a lesbian, Haru is still drawn and intrigued by Riko's proposal, eventually mustering the guts to ring her and arrange a date.

The relationship between the two young women blossoms, despite the obvious problems created from a young woman having to come to terms with her sexual identity. It soon becomes obvious that despite its happy beginning they are not immune to the problems that arise in the difficult times of young love...

Kakera opens with an extended period of speechless visuals, introducing Haru and revealing the rut that she’s stuck in. The first seven minutes leading up to Riko and Haru's first meeting is set to a pleasingly complementary soundtrack, written by the former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, and only two lines of speech. The slow and plodding pace at which we move through a typical morning for Haru is a great example of director/writer Momoko Ando's ability to control pace and emotion.

The initial meeting and first few flourishes of the central relationship do feel slightly contrived. The extremely confident personality that is Riko, having the audacity and self confidence to approach a stranger in a cafe and start hand feeding them cheesecake is over played with the intention of showing her as a character. It is saved by the fact that Haru is already a well established character, so her underwhelming objections are understandable.

After getting over its initial stumbles, it feels that Momoko Ando has stopped trying so hard in the quirky stakes, and the story finds a natural, yet refreshing flow – removing forced and unnecessary audience challenges that hamper the first twenty minutes. Haru seems to be portrayed on the toilet more than you would expect during this time.

The way in which Haru as a character is grown and progressed very subtly, and quite certainly, explains her curiosities in Riko. Her boyfriend is the epitome of misogynist - sexually aggressive, mentally controlling and abusive, and Haru (as many women in her situation are) is trapped by an irrational sense of love and loyalty to this man. The strain this puts on the budding central relationship is obvious and believable, with a well built atmosphere of tension.

The realistic nature of the film is refreshing, truly demonstrating no matter where in the world, no matter the sexuality of the people involved, the problems are the same. It echoes Riko’s statement: “Men and women are all human. It's only hard when we categorise ourselves.” Ultimately, Riko turns possessive and protective, whilst Haru struggles to be open and accept who she is. There is a nice moment when Riko tells Haru she needs to hear a sentence, “It begins with I and ends with U” and Haru replies, “I would like to eat some chicken Cordon Bleu”.” Couple this realism with the occasional drops into fantastical imagery, and there is a great example of cinematic storytelling playing out on screen.

Saying that, the two main characters never ‘actually’ kiss, instead uncomfortably pressing their faces together. Also, the CGI cheapens well thought out ideas - when a bottle of drink turns into a two headed dove, the graphics are a letdown. However, the film overall, deserves credit for achieving what is does on a clear shoestring budget.

An extremely commendably debut film, Kakera is a wonderfully humble and realistic view on relationships, love and life. A touching, funny and moving film worth the hour-and-forty-five minutes it skips its way through easily. JP

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