Eye For Film >> Movies >> Love And Other Cults (2017) Film Review
Love And Other Cults
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Love And Other Cults opens with three young men who find an 'if you want sex call...' message in a public toilet and actually make the call. And get a reply that doesn't lead to someone hanging up and calling the police. What they do get, however, is a lot more than they bargained for; and in the process one of them is briefly reunited with a young woman who has fascinated him throughout his life.
This is Ai (Sairi Itô), also known as Ananda, a girl whose serially religious mother packed her off to a cult commune as a child and who, despite being rescued by child services, has struggled to fit into mainstream Japanese society ever since. "We live different lives," she tries to explain to Ryota (Kenta Suga), who falls in love with her somewhere along the line and is never really able to let go. Through her story, we see how parallel world coexists in modern Japan, rarely intersecting. Yet although Ai's life is tough and often tragic - especially when she reaches out to try to connect with the mainstream world - it gives her a strength and resilience that defies any naive notions of rescue.
Indeed, it's Ryota's life and interpretations of the world, rather than Ai's, which are often the butt of the joke in a black comedy that goes to some very dark places. Showing at this year's Fantasia, it invites audiences to cross the social gulfs its characters cannot and to see how the same petty concerns - frustration, jealousy and the desire to seem more important than others - drive people together and apart on both sides of the tracks.
Itô is impressive in the lead, attracting sympathy but not too much pity, and letting her character grow into someone who does not seem damaged or incomplete. The film has pointed observations to make about misogyny in Japanese society, and about how such prejudices can linger in liberally minded individuals who don't see themselves as directly exploitative. There are echoes of The story Of O in the way that certain other women come to admire Ai, but the film's most significant progenitor is Kenji Mizoguchi's Life Of Oharu. Uchida's work is similarly episodic and takes a similar approach to exploring how women can fall through the cracks of a civilised society which then condemns them for it, but the world has changed since Oharu's time and we are left with the sense that it can change again.
With a youthful, punkish spirit enlivening what is at times a depressing story, Love And Other Cults mounts a scathing attack on social hypocrisy but never gets too self-important and never lets the comment get in the way of telling a colourful tale.Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2017