Drowning Love ★★★

One strange brew. Basically a story we've seen from Japan a thousand times: Pretty girl transfer student from Tokyo to Hicksville falls for the brooding bad boy in class. It treats a middle school romance as if it's a little more mature than it is. What sets it apart are some of the directorial choices in editing and sound.

There are some over-the-top drama moments that would kill the film if they weren't normalized by the weirdness of the overall. Almost every scene in the film is accompanied by a different piece of music. Some good, some not so good, but they all act strongly, not in the background, in shaping the emotion of the scene. And the director uses the emotion, or intensity, of the music to shape her film editing. It's not subtle, and I don't think I've seen anything like it before--at least to the extent that the whole film follows this pattern, scene after scene.

Drowning Love doesn't seem to care much about being a film as much as being a Live Action adaptation of a manga (which I haven't read). The director (I learned after the fact and it made perfect sense) is a 20-something young woman. It's like "Hey! One of us actually did this instead of some pervy old man!" and may explain some of the music video/video game aspects of the presentation.

There's one big problem with it. Well, two. The first is: it doesn't really make sense. The second is: it starts off as a typical teen romance (shojo, I think they're called), then an attempted/aborted rape happens which kicks up the intensity--until it gets lost. And that's the problem. This middle school girl almost gets raped, and two minutes later in the film it's forgotten or downplayed by everyone until the end where it's brought back up for the finale. There's also a "sensitive boy" friend who gets tossed off the film after doing his little duty. The adults in the film are just place holders who look out of place in the film--basically the way they must look to most middle school kids. Kudos for that.

Nana Komatsu of World of Kanako fame stars. She's got a certain set of chops. Some fancy boy idol, who dyed his hair blond for the role, plays broody boy. They have chemistry, and I enjoyed Nana's complexity in dealing with broody boy. He treats her like a dog and she's determined to get to a place where he will be a whimpering puppy. And tells him as much. I enjoy the way the Japanese use middle school students to act out a Doomed Lovers play. You look at the players--they're young, there's no sex. They seem innocent, but are given dialog that betrays a wisdom and experience beyond their years.

Not recommending it to anyone who isn't already interested in these kinds of movies. But this one is a little different and could offer something of interest because of the out-of-the-box way it's constructed. I think the ending is supposed to be big and meaningful but it didn't make any sense to me. It's not a film that meanders around and offers an emotional payoff at the end. It just spirals off.

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