iSugio

Halfway – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Popular high-school basketball player Shu overhears Hiro rehearsing declaring her love to him and decides to ask her out on a date. However, his plans to move away to attend Waseda University after high school soon put a strain on their developing relationship, and the conflicting choice to stay with her or go is put to the test.

With such a simple plot, one might assume that director Eriko Kitagawa’s Halfway would be more or less a redundant take on teenage love and angst. There have been plenty of films dealing with similar subjects concerning the high-school love dynamic, but Halfway surprisingly establishes itself as a film separate from others. Stemming from a script co-written by Shunji Iwai (Hana and Alice, All About Lily Chou Chou), Halfway tells a delicate tale of separation and independence through the lives of two high-school students. While other films might exploit the element of love and separation, Halfway carefully constructs its tale in an entirely believable and realistic fashion. The meticulous nature of the film only furthers such believability, mainly because it harkens on the time spent between the two as something that should be cherished and appreciated for what it’s worth.

It’s important to note that the film is entirely focused on its characters and their newfound and blossoming relationship. Through its fruition, all the way to its uncertain future, Halfway handles their relationship with such care and intimacy, that we truly begin to care for their future and wellbeing. While other films do explore this dynamic, they usually result in separation through terminal illness resulting in death. Here though, the possibility of separation is presented in a highly likely and reasonable fashion—that of attending schooling away from one another. Everyone has probably experienced this at least once in their own lives—whether it be friends, family, and/or relationships—which in turn brings to the film a universal appeal. It’s this quality that the film presents that makes it all the more relatable to the viewer, bringing about a sense of loss but also eventual reunification. This is strengthened by its willingness to avoid trappings often seen in so many other films, relying on the strength of its cast to support its story, not over sentimentalism.

Considering the cast, this would have to be one of the film’s strongest aspect. Doing a fine job in conveying the emotional ups and downs of the two protagonists, Kii Kitano and Masaki Okada produce an interesting on-screen couple that elicit all the truthful responses one would expect from a young couple considerate of their age. Awkward pauses, emotional outbursts, and charged confessions are all on display here, and the cast does a great job convincingly showcasing those responses. The cinematography was also a highlight of the film as well, and contributed to the film in a significant way. Similar to Iwai’s direction, director Eriko Kitagawa shows fantastic promise in reproducing the same atmosphere present in many of Iwai’s film’s—that of close, natural, and intimate settings that allows the focus on the film’s characters to take center. If one didn’t know otherwise, this could’ve even been mistaken for an Iwai film, which isn’t bad thing to consider in the least. The usage of a documentary-style shooting elevates the film to a more intimate nature, giving the audience a more authentic presentation than most other films fare to lend.

Overall, Halfway is an exceptional exploration of relationships and separation. The realistic approach it takes lends the film a more appreciative value more so than many other films in the genre, and it realizes that the simplicity of its plot provides its greatest strength. While the film focuses entirely on one relationship, those who watch it will certainly feel the sentiment it showcases as something they could easily find themselves relating to at some point in their own lives. Like the title of the film itself, it showcases how we can always find that halfway point concerning our emotions—in truth showing that our minds can be in a different place, but our hearts can ultimately be one in accordance. This is what makes Halfway all the more valued as a quiet and mature film regarding love, sacrifice, and promise.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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