Sankaku – Review
by Miguel Douglas on December 04, 2010
Momose, a 30-year-old who is somewhat of a deadbeat, is currently living with his girlfriend Kayo. Their relationship is not exactly where they would like it to be though, and they find themselves growing distant from one another as the days pass. Things suddenly change when Kayo’s 15-year-old sister Momo comes to stay with them during her summer vacation. While exciting for everyone at first, Momose and Momo slowly begin to express feelings for one another without the knowledge of Kayo. What soon develops is a love triangle that will put to the test their relationships with one another and question the boundaries of family and love.
Far removed from many of the stereotypical approaches that are normally associated with such a topic, Sankaku is a rather interesting film for a multitude of reasons. Whether viewed as a critique upon Japan’s adherence towards female adolescence, or simply a film concerning the destructive nature of lustful relationships, the film explores a diverse range of subjects without being unrealistic in its handling of them. Considering its initial focus—that in which an older man expresses his liking for his present girlfriend’s teenage sister—the film never detracts from being a film concerned with exploring the disastrous consequences that arise from such behavior. It comes as surprise then that former AKB48 member Erena Ono is the object of desire here. Considering this, the film could’ve easily exploited this notion of female adolescence to the fullest—which is not to say it doesn’t in some capacity—but restrains itself from being a film focusing solely upon the lust for that female adolescence. It’s interesting to note that such restraint is often times ignored within similar films, in which exploitation on part of the young female is discretely promoted as the film’s foundation—which fortunately isn’t done here.
In a more general sense, Sankaku remains firm in its characters and their personal dilemma surrounding their controversial relationship, never falling into completely sexualizing it. Presenting a rather authentic approach towards the development of such a relationship, the film offers a seemingly innocent view into its foundation and subsequent collapse without bringing in elements that would’ve completely removed it from reality. The slow and deliberate development of Momose and Momo’s short-lived relationship is not only more believable this way, but it distances itself from many of the sexual trappings that the plot could’ve easily fallen into. Once their relationship is left unresolved due to Momo having to return home, the film delegates a considerable amount time towards exploring the ramifications of their relationship and its effects upon the various individuals involved, especially that of Momose and Kayo. By removing Momo from a majority of the film, it allows the relationship between Momose and Kayo to take center, where paranoia and insecurity come to fruition in the most unhealthy of ways.
Considering that the film does feature Erena Ono, the exploitation on part of her character is certainly visible in some capacity. With her being a Japanese idol in real life, this is not unexpected in the least. Viewers will find miniscule fan service offered throughout the film, which sure to please fans, but is still surprisingly light for the average viewer. With her role being rather minute to begin with, this is a welcomed addition—a heavier usage of fan service would’ve been detrimental towards the overall impact of the film. The decision to remove her from a majority of the film was probably the best choice given that her relationship with Momose would have progressively delved into the realm of the strange and removed the notion of pure love shared between the two. So while the film retains the idea of a triangular relationship shared amongst the three individuals, it’s seemingly aware not to appear as a film simply dedicated towards showcasing Erena Ono, but rather conveying that she is but one element within a constructed plot.
But throughout a large portion of the film’s latter half, the juxtaposition between the comedic and dramatic elements begin to unravel, and we find the film pursuing a rather bizarre dichotomy. While the seriousness of the earlier half—a time where comedic intentions on part of the inclusion of Erena Ono were to be expected, but used sparingly—we find these moments of humor spread throughout the film’s latter, more serious half. While this certainly alleviates the film from being entirely too earnest, it seems somewhat unfitting to have these moments showcased primarily during the portion of the film where we find Momose and Kayo’s relationship under considerable uneasiness. This unusual choice leaves the film in an awkward position considering its material and hampers the dramatic elements established during its first half. While this certainly doesn’t lead the film entirely astray, it dampens the overall effectiveness of as it nears its odd but pragmatic conclusion.
While at first glance Keisuke Yoshida’s Sankaku might appear to be a critique upon the facets of modern day Japanese society and its infatuation with female adolescence, its primary focus is on a singular relationship and the intrusion of a third member into such a relationship. This brings down the capacity of the film in delivering an honest social commentary on the lusting and objectification of the adolescent female, a topic that is certainly reflective upon the modern day society within Japan. While this is touched upon sporadically throughout the film, it’s never allowed to come to the fruition as a significant element. This cultural obsession, which is viable given the realm of entertainment within Japan, would’ve given the film a profound sense of contemplation concerning such a social phenomenon. But while it’s disappointing to see that it doesn’t adhere to this approach, Sankaku still remains a surprisingly comical albeit superficial look into the drastic consequences of the love affair—especially when it involves adolescence.