Blindly in Love (Hako Iri Musuko No Koi): Film Review

Courtesy of Montreal International Film Festival
Modest romance goes haywire just as it's starting to work.

A misfit thirtysomething finds his best hope for love is in dating a blind woman.

An almost-there romance offering a socially inept man the chance to love a beautiful girl, Masahide Ichii's Blindly In Love stumbles badly just as it's beginning to feel real, then piles on the implausibilities to reach its dazzlingly bad ending. Domestic prospects are slim for a Japanese import that, had it gone a different way, could've been a passable arthouse rom-com.

Actor/musician Gen Hoshino plays Kentaro, a 35-year-old man who has no life. He lives with his parents, is a cipher in his civil-servant job, and spends every non-work moment in his room playing video games and caring for a pet frog. Hoshino makes Kentaro more android than man-child, unsympathetic even for a generation of moviegoers trained to identify with such adult misfits.

Kentaro's parents, desperate for him to marry and have kids, try and fail to find someone for him through a matchmaking event catering to the parents of single adults; one prospect emerges -- a beautiful girl named Naoko (Kaho) -- but her father quickly concludes from Kentaro's profile that he's not nearly the go-getter his daughter deserves. The next day, though, a random act of kindness inspires Naoko's mother to track them down and arrange a meeting. What she doesn't reveal to Kentaro's parents is that her daughter is blind.

The meeting goes poorly, but it does offer an opportunity for Kentaro to reveal a bit of himself; soon the two are meeting for tentative dates. Though neither is particularly communicative -- hard to understand in the case of Naoko, whose blindness shouldn't require Kaho to play her as a kind of awkward teen trapped in a woman's body -- they fall in love.

The movie is just finding the charm in this pairing when a predictable rom-com obstacle comes up, not only dividing the lovers but leaving Kentaro in the hospital. From this point on, nearly everything in the film rings false -- particularly the behavior of the two mothers, both of whom have seen their dreams for their children nearly fulfilled, but create obstacles instead of enabling the unlikely courtship.

When the pic decides to offer the two lovers a chance to meet again, it reenacts the mistakes made earlier and doubles down, contriving a run-to-her sequence that ends so poorly it will lose any viewer still giving this unlikely tale the benefit of the doubt.

Production Company: Kino Films

Cast: Gen Hoshimo, Kaho, Hitomi Kuroki, Sei Hiraizumi, Ren Ohsugi, Ryoko Moriyama

Director: Masahide Ichii

Screenwriter: Masahide Ichii, Takahiro Tamura

Producers: Chikako Nakabayashi, Yumiko Takebe

Executive producers: Naoya Kinoshita, Masahiko Mizuguchi

Director of photography: Daisuke Soma

Production designer: Mitsuse Matsuda

Music: Ren Takada

Costume designer: Sayaka Takahashi

Editor: Cheiko Suzaki

No rating, 117 minutes