Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Haru (Hikari Mitsushima) is a victim. She lets stuff happen. Like sex. It would be difficult to imagine a more repulsive boyfriend than the one who abuses her body whenever he feels like it and treats her with the respect of damaged goods. And there she goes, trotting behind him to the railway station, like a little dog. Although pretty, she makes the worst of herself. She can’t be bothered.

Kakera is a love story, which, after this introduction, might surprise you. Riko (Eriko Nakamura) is having a drink in the café near her work when she sees Haru sitting alone in the corner. She goes over. She strikes up a stranger-to-stranger conversation, except she does all the talking and Haru looks startled. When asked in a delicate way whether this is a predatory act of seduction, Riko smiles and says: “It’s not that I like girls. I like you, Haru,” which is not entirely truthful because Riko has no doubts about her sexuality and enough self-confidence to silence a bar room of saki-fuelled testosterone junkies with the force of her personality.

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Although within the remit of a Gay & Lesbian Film Festival entry, Kakera is gentle with specifics – i.e. who does what and how – and sensitive to feelings, namely Haru’s, which are confused and shy. “I like the feel of girls because they are soft,” Riko says and Haru agrees – who wouldn’t? – yet despite the flattery of infatuation, which awakens an awareness of self, even belief that beneath the apathetic student scruff lies genuine beauty, Haru’s emotions are bruised by such attention.

The honesty of Momoko Ando’s script and Mitsushima’s sympathetic performance are not enough to raise the film above a level of controlled interest. It may be a love story but, as with all obsessive passions, contains elements of violence and jealousy that cut the legs off dishwish bunny hop happy-ever-afters. The lesbian tag need not restrict heterosexual aficionados of human relationships. Life is seldom planned like a military exercise and love never follows a straight course.

“You smell like an animal,” Rico tells Haru after their first meeting. For some that’s a compliment. For others it’s a turn off. You choose.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2010
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One love, two girls, Japanese-style.
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Director: Momoko Andô

Writer: Momoko Andô

Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Eriko Nakamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Tasuku Nagaoka

Year: 2009

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: Japan

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