Love is all around in Japanese writer-director Rikiya Imaizumi/今泉力哉’s possibly unintentional comedy, MELLOW.
Seiichi Natsume (Kei Tanaka/田中圭, OSSAN’S LOVE: LOVE OR DEAD) runs a twee flower shop somewhere in Japan. The 30-something bachelor loves his life, making minimalist arrangements (which is an overstatement) for his customers. His life starts to get complicated, though, when one of his customers professes her love for him — in front of her husband, no less! Then a young high school student confesses her attraction to Seiichi but she has her own secret admirers to deal with. Finally, there’s Kiho (Sae Okazaki/岡崎紗絵, KISS ME AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT), who runs her late father’s ramen store where Seiichi goes for lunch everyday. She, too, has a thing for Seiichi though he remains oblivious to it all… until he doesn’t.
MELLOW is billed as a romance but there’s very little of that going on unless you call a bunch of women, old and young, professing their love to someone they really don’t know too well “romance”. Instead, I’d call MELLOW an unintentional comedy because many of the scenes are funny in that creepy way that the Japanese are so good at. This is, after all, the country that sells used schoolgirl knickers from vending machines. Okay, maybe they’re not selling used ones anymore. They’re just advertising them as “used”. While the central plot involves Seiichi and Kiho, the side plots hold more promise as Imaizumi teases the possibility of an overt extra-marital affair and a same-sex relationship only to dial them back and fall back on that well-worn trope of unrequited love. At the very least, Imaizumi could have made Seiichi gay. Alas, that was not to be. Fortunately, the film isn’t a complete washout thanks to the performance of Tamaki Shiratori/白鳥玉季, who plays Seiichi’s wise-beyond-her-years, 9-year-old niece, Saho. I would have preferred seeing her smack some sense into her uncle a few times during the film’s 106-minute running time but maybe that’s just my Western sensibility. The kid clearly knows that her uncle is as thick as a brick though.
The big problem with MELLOW is that it’s just too mellow. Fortunately, there’s an audience demographic for this film (30-something, female, single, office workers who have rows of Hello Kitty characters blue tacked on their cubicle dividers) who will be moved by Seiichi and Kiho. For the rest of us, however, having root canal might be a more pleasant alternative.
MELLOW opens in Hong Kong today. With any luck, it will last as long as a bouquet of cut flowers.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, June 5th, 8:30 am HK time!
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