This World of Ours – Review
by Miguel Douglas on December 31, 2009
Before I get into my review of This World of Ours, I thought it would be interesting to point out a very some very interesting facts pertaining to the director. I believe it is significant to the film as well as my overall review. Director Ryo Nakajima wrote the script for this film at only 19 years of age, and filmed it when he was 23. Previous to his experience in film-making, he was what the Japanese call a “hikkimori”—a reclusive individual who have chosen to withdraw from social life—and spent numerous years in a self-imposed isolated state. Upon arriving at the end of his emotional handicap, Ryo believed it was his duty to share his thoughts deriving from his experience as well as his opinion regarding Japanese society—from his perspective—and thus This World of Ours was born.
When a film such as This World of Ours opens with distorted footage of the destructive aftermath of 9/11, you know you’re in store for something more than your mere standard film. This World of Ours follows three characters with interconnected paths—we first have Ryo (Satoshi Okustu), a school bully who learns the error of his ways when he becomes the victim himself; next is Hiroki (Yoshiko Taniguchi), a college student who is learning the harsh realities of either accepting to follow the routine path to adulthood or the not; and finally we have Ami (Arisa Hata), another high school student who must use other people to do her bidden due to her insecurities. Each of their paths will eventually intersect to lead down a singular path of destructive behavior.
This World of Ours is a very interesting and adventurous film to say the least. The strong theme of “youth” as an integral part of society, and how they fit into the entire societal structure is vividly examined—and at times a little exaggerated—but still very much a microscopic critique of Japanese society. The three individuals within the film are all deviants from how their society deems what is “normal” behavior; Ryo doesn’t believe school is important, Hiroki is questioning continuing going to school to get a good job, and Ami is insecure about her own exterior looks. These three ideologies represent the fraction of individuals within their society that function through these ideals, whether they believe in their notions or not.
Perhaps this examination relates to elements that director Ryo Nakajima personally endured through his “hikkimori” phase. I could easily see elements within the film that could mirror his disability, and to see the conformist philosophy that is quite heavily instilled in contemporary Japan, it’s highly likely that he trying to defer the argument that one must conform or else slip away. The analyzing of these variants bring forth a sort of a sane rationalization of the decisions these character make within the film, perhaps to the point of being brutally honest. I respect this element of the film immensely, and it truly showcases the importance that Nakajima put forth in addressing his characters as people who are slowly trying to obtain their individuality in a society that dismisses it.
This World of Ours is a film that is not only exceptionally well thought out, but also effectively addresses the disillusionment that accompanies an individual’s willingness to conform to society. The acting is superb as well, and it truly complements the direction by Ryo Nakajima. For a first time director, this debut is in every sense of the word mesmerizing, and if this is what Nakajima has to offer to the world of Japanese cinema, I’m truly anticipating his future releases.