Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

Lonely and maladjusted women have been a recurring theme in recent Japanese cinema, but Mime-Mime’s main character, Makoto, is in another category to the slightly batty outsiders featured in films such as Fine, Totally Fine and Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Wwimmers. Only 18 but with a jaded, acerbic outlook on life and no idea what she’s doing with it, Makoto (Ayaco Niijima) lives alone. She avoids her family and all ties of friendship, and has occasional sex with her former high-school teacher, in a relationship where it’s hard to work out who is using who.

When she reluctantly attends a family dinner, she sees for the first time in several years her neighbour’s son, the earnest Nakajima, with whom she used to be close. Good friends as children, now they are reduced to awkward conversation but despite Makoto’s best effort’s to shake him off, he persists and the two end up in a relationship.

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On one hand, Makoto keeps her ex-teacher on the back-burner – becoming more and more intent on controlling their relationship – and on the other, she has Nakajima, who offers her companionship, ignores her sharp tongue and tries to persuade her to find some goals for her life.

Makoto’s world is colourful but languid and slow-moving, “we’re just killing time” her mantra to avoid attachment and efface any hint of meaning in her relationships. Ayako Niijima portrays the misanthropic Makoto effortlessly, but the character is so prickly, and her motivation so unclear from one moment to the next - “I can’t deal with myself either,” she admits - that it’s hard for the viewer to make a connection with her.

Sode makes clever use of claustrophobic locations to mirror Makoto’s unease with human ties – her lover’s tiny office, the neon-lit bar-room booth where she has stilted conversations with a girlfriend and her mother. However, with a pace verging on catatonic, combined with Makoto’s impenetrable state of mind, Mime-Mime’s frustrations eventually outweigh its rewards.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2009
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Story about an eccentric who is the black sheep of her family.
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Director: Yukiko Sode

Writer: Yukiko Sode

Starring: Ayaco Niijima Masahisa Yamazoe, Kanji Tsuda

Year: 2008

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Japan

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