Again: Busan Review

A sensitive but misguided teen drama.

Japanese filmmaker Kanai Junichi makes his feature debut with a quasi coming-of-age story that also tackles the emotional aftermath of sexual assault.

Writer-director Kanai Junichi wades into some tricky but (initially) refreshing territory in his feature debut Again, a quasi-coming-of-age story that also tackles sexual assault and takes the victim’s side. Despite occasionally gratuitous hand-held camera work and some aural dead zones, Kanai crafts a compelling, if simple, narrative that dares to suggest a teen rape victim is not at fault and also that the resulting emotions can be conflicted and confusing. Young star Yoshikura Aoi deserves a great deal of credit for the film’s more sensitive and affecting moments, and it’s not because of her that Again collapses in its last act.

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High school student Hatsumi (Yoshikura) is something of a shrinking violet. Shy, unassuming and completely under her strict lawyer mother’s (Asaka Mayumi) control, she’s doing her best to adjust to life in the small town they relocated to following her father’s death. One thing she does fully invest herself in is running. Things seem to take a turn personally when she meets Ryutaro (Yagira Yuya), an equally alienated garbage collector. They bond over their empathy of loss and he makes her feel at home in the town. Hatsumi thinks she’s found a soul mate, but that belief evaporates when he rapes her.

Though frequently heavy handed -- Kanai revels in rote images of isolation -- Yoshikura keeps Hatsumi understandable. But what begins as a reasonably compelling and unusually sympathetic examination of the aftermath of sexual assault devolves into a misguided tragic romance in a demonstration of victim blaming and a fundamental misunderstanding of the crime. As soon as Ryutaro begins his court-mandated “reflection” upon his act, Again goes off the rails. The final meeting between the two spirals into romantic melodrama before an inappropriately happy ending.

Busan International Film Festival, New Currents
Cast: Yoshikura Aoi, Yagira Yuya
Director: Kanai Junichi 

106 minutes

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