Sweet Little Lies – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Satoshi and Ruriko have been a married couple for roughly three years, remaining childless over this period. Despite living together without interference from their in-laws and friends, their relationship remains empty as they distance themselves from one another, both emotionally and physically. Extending their physical desires to other individuals, their relationship secretly begins to unravel as they each begin to have separate affairs, eventually affecting their marriage as well as their outlook on love.

Based on the novel by Kaori Ekuni, Sweet Little Lies examines the fragile marriage as it slowly disintegrates through the showcase of both physical and emotional detachment. With each participate longing for something missing from within their lives, they each find solace in other individuals as they attempt to fill that mutual void of emptiness they both share, attempting to reaffirm what it means to truly love and be loved by someone. Taking quite the unexpected route though, the film remains very subtle in its exploration of such a controversial subject—a subject that is mostly shown through the most drastic of measures within other films—but here we see the expression of such a devastating act as something that ironically brings these individuals closer together rather than truly separate them.

While the film remains firm upon showcasing this downward spiral of emotional and physical ineptness conveyed by its two protagonists, it also explores a very difficult but poignant theme pertaining to perhaps one of the most fundamental elements pronounced within a successful marriage—that of communicating the truth to one’s significant other. What Sweet Little Lies attempts to question is the notion of truth and how essentially lying to our spouse can in turn save a relationship—an awkward notion for sure, but director Hitoshi Yazaki handles it with a delicate touch that makes it all seem relatively plausible to imagine. Even if we are to effectively cheat on our partner through the physicality of an affair, what if we remain adamant towards loving our spouse emotionally? The degree in which one adjusts towards hiding the truth to preserve the emotional wellbeing of the individual they love is brought into considerable examination within the film, and it lingers as a question that all the characters are having difficulty attempting to seek an answer towards.

With both Ruriko and Satoshi’s cumbersome relationship at the forefront—where even the most simplistic needs of communication is constrained to that of having to use cellular phones within the house to talk to one another—the film elicits a sense of loneliness within the confinement of marriage—where mutual communication is expected and at best necessary to thrive—is essentially absent here. Not only do we see this loneliness as a catalyst towards the fruition of the affairs, but also we can subsequently view it as an examination of the validities of marriage itself. Yazaki explores this idea to great depth, never allowing an easy answer to simply be established for the sake of hurryingly concluding the dilemma of the film’s characters. Instead, what we see is a focus on the internal conflicts of the individuals taking part in and surrounding the affairs and the turmoil that arises amongst them, all through a sense of quiet contemplation. Through the subtlest of examples, the film heavily imbues itself with a sense metaphorical understanding that encompasses the broad emotional spectrum that the characters face. There are moments throughout the film—such as Ruriko’s attentiveness towards her artistic crafting of teddy bears or Satoshi’s inability to have the door to his entertainment room remain unlocked—that truly provide insight into the deterioration of their relationship through such eccentric and abnormal practices.

But with the film centered primarily on two individuals, Yazaki engages within a character study in how such incidents can shape and readjust a person’s perspective on not only marriage, but also their ability to truly love someone. The preservation—or protection—of this status of marriage is brought forth, as society and intimacy clash to appropriate dominance over one another. While those around them envy the marriage of Satoshi and Ruriko and view it as one thriving with liveliness and joy, to them it has already dissolved into a cold and empty gesture that has essentially fallen to the wayside. But while perhaps the rough exterior of their relationship has indeed expired, their ability to lie to each other has certainly kept it somewhat within the realm of normality—and perhaps more importantly, alive. Deriving from the title of the film itself, the film extensively explores the various degrees in which we lie to protect one another from the truth—essentially lying to the one we love in order to not hurt their feelings or acknowledge their failures. A rather odd way to approach a marriage for sure, but Yazaki offers up a critical and precise examination of two individuals caught within a flurry of falsehoods that ironically strengthens their capacity to understand marriage as something not simply regarding the superficial, but also the deeply intimate.

What remains is a film that isn’t entirely easy to digest—both through the metaphorical and narrative sense—but Sweet Little Lies examines the complexities that arise within a deteriorating marriage expressed in the most subdued of fashions. Considering that most other films dealing with the affairs showcase the extremities of such—where abrupt anger and seething violence come in as considerable elements—Sweet Little Lies remains observant on the slow declination of a marriage, but doesn’t make it too downtrodden to view. There is a sense of rejuvenation within Sweet Little Lies, where the pieces finally come together and salvation may become a possibility for these two people, which is where the film truly shines as an elegant piece on true love. What remains is a slow and meditative film concerning such possibilities, showing that even in the direst of situations, redemption within a relationship is truly a mutual affair.

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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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