iSugio

Petal Dance – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Four women, who have their own different sorrows, embark on a road trip. They look back at their past and restart their lives. Jinko and Motoko have been friends since their university days. One day, they hear a rumor about their former classmate and friend Miki. The rumor is that Miki ran into the sea, but got out safely. Jinko and Motoko decide to visit Miki to see if she is alright. In addition, Haraki, who Jinko met at the library where she works, joins their trip as a driver. Their one night and two days road trip begins.

Director Hiroshi Ishikawa has always been a director whose films I look forward to watching. Although rather limited in terms of his filmography – he has currently only released three films – every one of his films have shown a great appreciation towards the emotions of their respective characters, expressing such sentiments through a simple, poetic aestheticism that is distinctively his own. While the narratives of all of his films thus far have been significantly light when viewed through a traditional sense, Ishikawa has an astute ability in bringing about a very genuine atmosphere throughout each of films. Petal Dance is quite similar in this regard, with Ishikawa exploring the intimacy surrounding a group of characters as they strive to better understand themselves as well as each other.

The self-reflective nature of the film’s characters are not exactly as unequivocal as one would expect, as Petal Dance focuses more so on the seemingly small but significantly important moments within the lives of these characters. Whether this is expressed in Jinko’s uncertain relationship with her boyfriend, to Haraki’s regret in not helping out a past friend in need, the emotional journey of the film’s characters are all interconnected in some fashion, but not in the conventional sense. Ishikawa never really outwardly expresses this sense of connectivity, instead having his characters contemplate many of their dilemmas through quiet introspective moments. The narrative is mainly about how these characters are slowly and unawarely beginning their lives anew amidst emotional setbacks, having their own attempts in overcoming these setbacks mostly confined to themselves.

This is certainly not to say that the film simply removes itself from the importance of the livelihood of these characters and their bonds – it is in fact quite the opposite. Ishikawa establishes them as sort of an equilibrium to one another, easing them into newly found friendships as well as rekindling the friendships of old. The title of the film itself bears much meaning towards the themes of friendship that the films so adamantly explores, with the often wavering effect that friendship exhibits being quite similar to that of petals soaring in the breeze as individuals connect and slowly drift away. One could even compare the state of the characters within the film to many individuals within our own lives that we have become separated from due to purposes deriving from location, family matters, profession, or simply life itself.

Coinciding with the essence of the film is Ishikawa’s use of improvisation, which offers the film a natural fluidity. Free from the constraints of a script, the strength of the film’s female cast certainly shines through as they are able to effectively convey the emotional nuances that come about when friendship is continually the focus. With the Aoi Miyazaki, an actress who has worked with Ishikawa before on the impressive 2005 film Su-ki-da, she is seen this time around as more accustomed to Ishikawa’s directing style. Sakura Ando and Shiori Kutsuna also round out the quality of the cast, with Kazue Fukiishi delivering a powerful but short performance as an individual recovering from an attempted suicide. The naturalism of the cast truly establishes the intimate scope of the film as a whole, as we begin to view these individuals as truly friends despite them acting together in a film. The characterization, although initially seen as minimalistic in nature, slowly blossoms throughout the film as these character begin to find some commonality with one another as they help each other grow.

The particular strength of Petal Dance is that it is quite aware of the emotional depth that its narrative encompasses. It is a slow, quiet film that never attempts to reach outside itself from being just that, with Ishikawa entrusting much of the film to its talented cast. Not many films come to mind that would have worked without a solid cast such as the four actresses within this film, each who offer something special to the narrative as a whole. One could go even as far as to say that the film would have not succeeded if put into incapable hands, both on the directorial and actress front. Luckily, Petal Dance is a film that does succeed due to its focus on individuals attempting to restart their lives and overcome their tribulations, all expressed in a very truthful and thoughtful fashion.

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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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Comments

  • http://www.geekybytes.org/ Advait Panchal

    Friendship, and the journeys on which it takes us

  • http://www.isugoi.com/ Miguel Douglas

    Great perspective on this film!

  • http://alanflorit.blogspot.com/ Alan Florit

    Beautiful film. Ishikawa is one of the best directors in Japan. Very sensitive film.

  • http://www.isugoi.com/ Miguel Douglas

    I agree!