Walter Andrade’s review published on Letterboxd :
I've just watched it and my fingers are still shaking. I don't know for sure how to start it, I just know that I need to write something so I can always remember how I felt in the very first time I watched it. And I felt wonderful.
For those who didn't see it, I must say that this is not an easy-digest movie, nor a children kind of film despites the young actors. Although it sound so cliché, it must be said: this is a movie about love. When I first heard about it, I remember that I thought: "Oh, must be a cute movie". Well, it isn't 'cute'. There is a reason for this young actors: this vision of love this movie shows is exactly the vision we had as a child and that we lost when we became adults. Teenagers are in the border of both times, thats why they are here as the main characters.
First of all, we need to meet Yu, the protagonist. He loses his mother early, and see his own father becoming a priest. Before his mother passes out, she shows a little statue of Mary to Yu saying: "Look, you'll find a woman who's just like Mary." Yu will carry this moment to the rest of his life.
Ten years after his mother's death we find Yu as a shy, silent and innocent boy who feels guilty for killing a ant and who lives with his father, who now is a priest. Things looks peaceful between them. Then, comes a woman, and the movie begins. Her name is Kaori. She throws herself into the priest's arms and he can't help but feel in love with her. Their start to live together, away from the church, hidden. Kaori isn't happy with that, though. She wants to marry Yo's father and fights with him because he can't marry her. Because he needed to put hims own ideas and beliefs aside to stay with Kaori, Yo's father, Takahiro, falls in sadness when Kaori leaves. He starts to feel very guilty and to project it into his son. He says Yo has to confess, but Yo has nothing to say, he is too pure. However, for the sake of hims father, Yu starts to make stupid things just to help his father, who is very sad thinking he made the worst of all sins falling into luxury with Kaori. In the beginning he kills ants and destroy a classmate's eraser but it makes his father even more sad. How could he be so mean? How could he be so perverted? Yu sees that and starts to make perverted things to have real hard stuff to confess and make his father feels better. He starts take up-skirt photos. The relationship with his father will change from now on. Whether he was silent and distant before, now he decides to live in the church and left Yu to live by himself in the house.
This is too much for Yu, and he starts to take up-skirt photos for fun, since he doest not feel horny with it.
It all comes to change when the second woman comes in. Yoko Osawa was created by a sex maniac who tried to fuck his own daughter. Her father madness made Yoko hates all men. It's interesting here that no single character is superficial. They all have reasons to be who they are. Well, the scene Yu and Yoko first see each other is simply brilliant. The whole sequence is filmed as a children's action picture, like Power Rangers. It seems to be a Sono's specific choice, to make links with his childhood pop icons. Yu was dressed like a woman and he helps Yoko to kick some punks out. When Yoko tries to talk with him, he says he is "Sasori-san" (an old Japanese heroin). Yu, so used to see another girls panties, accidentally see Yoko's and has a hard-on for the very first time. Yoko, thinking that Yu is a girl falls in love with him.
Now how can Yu say the truth to a girl who hate men? What will happen with his father, living sad and alone in the church? A lot of another characters are still to come and the story gets more and more complex and beautiful with the time.
It's simply inexplicable how Sono made 237 minutes looks like 90. The rhythm here is nothing but perfect. The final cut does not leaves holes behind nor makes the story boring. The soundtrack, who travels from classic music to psychedelic is brilliant, specially in the sequence when Yu is starting to commit sins and Ravel's Bolero is playing in the background. Also, some frames deserves an observation. For example, when Yu and his friends take Yoko to and dirty and desert beach to try to help her leaving Zero Church's madness. The sequence starts with a combination of two buses: the new one who brings them to this lonely place and the old one where Yu and Yoko are going to stay for the while. They represent Yoko and Yu's relationship, who comes brand new and here it will start a travel to maturity. We will know Yoko a little more here and we'll see them both in healthy and ill, wealth and poverty, happiness and sadness together, until the moment he takes her to the beach, she is tied and the frame who catches them walking to the sea symbolizes the path they need to walk, Yoko is also tied by Zero Church's ideas and Yu wants to lead her to freedom.
Although all the problems they pass, Yu's love is inflexible. And it reaches to the point he guards himself in his own madness being Sasori to continue loving her (he pushes it so far that ends up in mental hospital). Otherwise, Yoko needs to know again the childhood dreams to realize that Yu is the only person for her.
Yu's father need to leave catholicism to find love. The movie is also a critic to the excess of spiritualism because the priest finds love when he accept his own body as a part of his spirit, as a potential form of love too. This can be seen with Yu's too. All along the picture he only has hard-on with Yoko. This cant be seen as a dirty thing. This is love expressing itself with the spirit and the body at the same time. And expressing itself too through this picture who is already on my top 4.