Himizu ★★★½

My fourth Sono and by far the most tender (the last part is downright sentimental), maybe because his heroes are young or maybe because the dystopian mood comes with a real-life handle (the Fukushima nuclear disaster looms over the movie, sparking an obvious parallel between neglectful/incompetent authorities and abusive/incompetent parents). Very subdued for this director, which is fine since he always goes over-the-top with scenes of violence anyway; the setting is a devastated wasteland, Japan is portrayed as a sick society and we do get the usual quota of beatings and stabbings - but the violence is mostly aimed inward, sparked by adolescent feelings of guilt, alienation and worthlessness. The girl is a bit of a cheerleader, but in fact her manic optimism - her courage in laying herself so wide open, the unchecked exuberance of her love - becomes quite touching, even as the boy sinks into dead-eyed zombiedom and roams the streets looking for bad guys to kill with his kitchen knife. The 'Adagio for Strings' turns up, also a poem that may well sum up the teenage experience: "I know it all. All except myself".

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