At 73 years old Katsu (Mitsuko Baisho) tries to live her best life, but she still has some regrets. In her younger years she had a dream and a voice that could captivate anyone who heard it, but with a sick baby to take care of and a war raging she put her ambitions on the back burner. While they do argue a lot, she’s incredibly proud of her daughter, who is now a fashion magazine editor with her own son. But, even so, she can’t help but wonder what she could have achieved if she was given another chance, and when she stumbles across a mysterious photography studio she gets given just that.
Now in her twenties, Katsu renames herself Setsuko Otori (Mikako Tabe) and relishes at the fact that she’s been returned to her younger self. Buying all the trendy new clothes she wants and getting her hair styled like Audrey Hepburn is just the start, she’s also begun singing once more – captivating not only her grandson Tsubasa (Takumi Kitamura), but also an influential music producer (Jun Kaname) that’s searching for the perfect singer. At first she’s unsure of what to make of their interest, especially her grandson, but when he asks her to be a part of his band she agrees. Breathing new life into the boy’s mismatched group, Katsu brings her knowledge of the music from her past to create something new and exciting on stage.
Based on the Korean film Miss Granny, Sing My Life is a fun and light-hearted film. Its lead character Katsu is as loveable in her old age as she is when she’s young, mainly thanks to her bubbly personality and positive attitude. She cracks jokes and has a great singing voice, so it’s easy to fall in love with her. The energy she brings to the film keeps things fun, even when the narrative takes a more dramatic turn her caring nature keeps the story afloat. Katsu is relatable, that’s what it comes down to, and the performances of the two actors that portray her are able to highlight the character’s good points. It’s their portrayal that makes her such a strong character, even when the narrative seems cliche or slow.
Having seen the original film it was difficult not to compare the two, and that was the problem. Hwang Dong-hyuk’s charming comedy is largely replicated in the Japanese adaptation, it even feels like it’s shot-for-shot the same, and because of this there is very little that felt new or surprising. Where his film flowed effortlessly and easily moved its audience, Nobuo Mizuta’s felt flat and generic. Perhaps it’s because remakes aren’t usually as good as the original, or that our vision was clouded by the first version, but it was difficult to become fully immersed in Sing My Life. It was just too hard not to take the first version into consideration. Review by Roxy Simons.
Sing My Life is being screened across the UK as part of the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme. For more information on cities and dates, go to their website.
Director: Nobuo Mizuta
Release: 4 February 2018 (Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme)
Format: Theatrical Release