My Darling Is a Foreigner -- Film Review



HONG KONG -- "My Darling Is a Foreigner," is based on Sayuri Oguri's autobiographical manga series about her life with an American husband in Japan. It is breezy and makes international matches look like a piece of cake, but at least director Kazuaki Ue tactfully avoids those naff "I say tomato, you say to-mah-to" comparisons.

Although the film's priority target is the Japanese female demographic, cross-cultural liaisons generate interest anywhere in the world. The film provides some insight into how foreigners are perceived in Japan. Sales could trickle into Asian markets that recognize lead actress Mao Inoue for starring in the wildly popular "Boys Over Flowers" TV series and film.

While the manga is a collection of vignettes of daily life, the screenplay sticks to more standard storytelling without pausing on much detail. It opens with aspiring manga artist Saori (Inoue) and Kanji (Chinese character) fanatic Tony (Jonathan Sherr) going on their third date and fast forwards to them moving into a fairytale home.

Without further ado, Saori introduces Tony to her parents at her sister Mika (Ryoko Kuninaka)'s wedding. Tony makes a faux pas but disarms Saori's mother (Shinobu Ohtake). Feeling snubbed by the informal way in which Saori breaks the news, her father (Jun Kunimura) quietly expresses his disapproval. Misunderstandings also start to shake Saori's and Tony's convictions about their love.

"My Darling" makes spot-on observations of how illogical xenophobia can be: When Tony stops a passerby to ask for directions in perfect Japanese, the man recoils in terror, insisting that he cannot understand English. When Tony rephrases his question in Kansai dialect, the man at once enthusiastically points out the way. Less intentional but equally ludicrous, Saori's parents cannot tell Tony and the priest apart at Mika's wedding.

Compared to the self-possessed Saori, contemplative, considerate Tony comes across as positively angelic. Examples of their culture clashes: Tony washing dishes without rinsing them or not putting delicates into laundry nets turn out to be mountains made out of mole hills.

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Sherr, who is the spitting image of Ohshima's husband, is still green in his crossover from comedy to acting, but he could melt girls with his wet puppy look. Inoue over estimates her cuteness.

Short animated excerpts of Oguri's manga and interviews with mixed marriage couples (that look like UNESCO publicity stunts) add some color to the straight-faced drama.

Venue: Hong Kong Filmart Industry Screenings
Production: TBS Pictures, Toho Company, "My Darling is a Foreigner" Film Partners
Sales: TBS Pictures
Cast: Mao Inoue, Jonathan Sherr, Ryoko Kuninaka, Shinobu Ohtake, Jun Kunimura
Director: Kazuaki Ue
Screenwriter: Satomi Oshima
Based on the manga by Saori Oguri
Producers: Osamu Kubota, Tamako Tsujimoto
Executive producer: Kazuo Hamana
Director of Photography: Hitoshi Kato
Production designer: Kunio Iwasaki, Hidefumi Hanatani
Costume designer: Ikuko Utsunomiya
Music: Tokio Noguchi
Editor: Yoshimasa Kogure
No rating, 100 minutes