Japanese teenagers don’t have an easy life, at least not according to Eiji Uchida. Having been cast out from a young age himself, this notion has been the focus of many of his films including his latest, Love and Other Cults. Made with Third Window Films, their second collaboration, the film sees its characters’ struggle against gang members, prostitution, and religious cults — an unconventional film from an unconventional director.
Told from the point of view of high school student, and teenage runaway, Ryota (Kenta Suga), the film focuses on the tumultuous life of Ai (Sairi Ito), the blonde-haired Yankee girl he’s fallen madly in love with. She jumps from home to home, look to look, all in the hope of finding somewhere to belong. Following along with her mother’s religious-fancies as a child, she joined a cult for seven years before being placed into your typical nuclear family, but even that doesn’t work out for her and she’s forced to move in with Japan’s homeless families. Ai just can’t find her place in the world and it seems like only Ryota truly understands how she feels.
Uchida’s film is driven by its intense performances and excellent character development. Sairi Ito and Kenta Suga prove themselves to be emerging new talents with their nuanced interpretations of their broken characters. Antony also tackles his first role very well, the Japanese comedian couldn’t be further from his comfort zone as hard-man Kenta but his story is the most engaging and sweet. Kaito Yoshimura’s take on volatile wannabe Yakuza Yuji is the most impressive, though, as his character’s insecurities and explosive attitude often make him the most terrifying presence onscreen.
While it is well acted, Uchida’s film tries to fit in too much in too little time and so it misses the chance to examine its topic in more detail. It sets out to portray the hardships of teenagers at the hands of brutal adults, but sometimes the film comes across as depraved and chaotic. There’s such a variety of character arcs, though, that it’s hard not to get drawn into their grim lives. This kind of story is what made Uchida a cult icon in the film industry, so perhaps the dark plotlines aren’t such a bad thing. Love and Other Cults is definitely familiar territory for the director, and fans of his work are sure to enjoy this intense drama.
Release: 22 September 2017
From: Third Window Films
Director: Eiji Uchida
Starring: Sairi Ito, Kenta Suga, Antony, Kaito Yoshimura.
Love and Other Cults premieres at the 25th Raindance Film Festival today and will be screened again on 27 September 2017; tickets for the event can be found here.