iSugio

Love on Sunday 2: Last Words – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Nagisa is a high school girl who has been given three months to live. Without telling her widowed father where she is going, she sets out from the city to the small town of Chiba where she was born—as well as had her first love. She recalls her youthful memories as well as her rekindled love for childhood friend Satoshi. However, she is shocked to discover that Satoshi is having an affair with Eriko, a married woman. With the limited time Nagisa has left, she contemplates whether to tell Satoshi her true feelings concerning her longstanding love for him.

Always one to seemingly look into the ethereal realm of cinema within his films, Ryuichi Hiroki’s Love on Sunday 2: Last Words tells the delicate tale of regret, loss and love. Presented as the second title in BS-i’s satellite channel’s “Japanese Break Through Films” series, this film has a more resound cast to accompany it than its predecessor. Deriving from the premise of knowing one’s eventual death, the film essentially offers a rather subdued atmosphere concerning this notion. Quite reflective in this capacity, the film doesn’t present a grandiose statement concerning death—where relatives congregate from all over to bid the individual farewell—rather, the film relies mostly on the personal reflection of the individual as well as unresolved relationships of the past. It’s certainly striking to see such a premise within the confinements of youth, with most films dedicating this premise towards individuals much older or utilizing tried-and-true narrative structuring to appease mainstream audiences. All the more compelling because of these avoidances, the film doesn’t necessarily succumb to devices of cheap emotional harvesting for the sake of the viewer. Filled with quiet moments of internal conflict, the film offers a meditation on the limited time we have within our lives, with moments of regrets being especially highlighted.

And what eventually transpires is a film that goes far deeper contemplatively than most films dealing with such a subject. While death is often associated with that of being a situation filled anxiety and despair, Hiroki explores the acceptance of death as a peaceful endeavor within one’s life. This emotional contemplation is expertly conveyed within the role of Nagisa, played here by Maki Horikita. Maki showcases exceptional acting skills for her role, with many of the film’s more prominent moments eliciting the much-needed emotional depth requested from her. Given her other roles within television and film, it should come at no surprise her ability for presenting a wide range of emotions, but considering the subdued material here, her suppressed emotions work in the film’s favor. This concept goes alongside the remainder of the cast as well, all who support the humble atmosphere that permeates throughout the film.

Similar to his other films, Hiroki offers up a realistic portrayal of individuals dealing with everyday dilemmas. The usage of a handheld camera in shooting the film does a fantastic job of narrowing the film’s scope significantly, which allows the audience to envision the film as a miniscule portrait of Nagisa’s battle to remedy past regrets. While some might see the film as visually cheap because of this, it ultimately doesn’t allow the film to be entirely too big for its own good. Coupled with a narrative that seems focused on presenting the longing an individual feels deal with their past, the film’s ending is entirely devoid of the overt melodrama often viewed in similar films—which in essence, makes it seem all the more authentic in nature. This is where the film truly hits its highest stride in not following the tired formulas viewed in past films, but rather seriously looks at the emotional relationships that are shared between one another and how death can ultimately them.

For what its worth, Love on Sunday 2: Last Words is a film that neither sides with mediocrity nor allows itself to be associated with films dealing with similar subjects. Its uniqueness in its casting and narrative is what makes the film stand out as an example of how to effectively construct a film that doesn’t attempt to derive a cheap emotional response from the audience. This is so often abused for the sake of garnering a response from audiences, willingly used in order to make up for the lack of substance within a story. Rather here, the film’s authentic portrayal of life and its cherished moment are thoughtfully examined, and Hiroki and company believe that this should be an issue not truncated and produced solely for cheap melodrama—it deserves much, much more.

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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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