Movies · Reviews

Foreign Objects: Kakera (Japan)

By  · Published on June 30th, 2010

“How lucky men are to touch something so soft and cuddly.”

A love story without sex can sometimes be just as profound and powerful as one featuring threesomes and nipple clamps. Who knew?Haru (Hikari Mitsushima) is a college student stuck in a dead-end relationship with a boyfriend whose only interest is sex. Well, sex and shooting birds in the morning with a potato gun. She knows it’s wrong, but she’s also afraid of the alternative. Being unsure, being unwanted, being alone. One morning a woman sitting nearby in a cafe catches her eye and soon Riko (Eriko Nakamura) has sat down beside her and introduced herself. Riko isn’t necessarily a lesbian, but she does know what she likes. And right now she likes Haru. Riko’s job as a medical artist finds her creating and shaping new body parts for people in need, and while Haru isn’t missing any physical parts she’s still someone in need. The two strike up a friendship and soon find the relationship growing into something… more.

Kakera, or A Piece Of Our Life for those who need a title that doesn’t sound like a South American pop star, is an honest, humorous, and occasionally frustrating look at falling in love in a world of expectations both societal and self-created. Haru’s shyness and low self-worth allows her boyfriend to take advantage of her in cruel and often rough ways, and the attention from Riko in the form of honest compliments is enough to crack that shell and allow Haru the room to grow. Along with that self-awareness comes the idea that feelings and emotions shouldn’t be bottled up and contained any more than a person should. That message comes wrapped in a fresh take on love and friendship that will leave you smiling… at least until the film’s second half when the requisite relationship dramas appear. And then appear again. And again.

The core of the film, both in heart and strength, can be seen and felt in the performances of the two leads. Mitsushima’s Haru is a wonder of sedate misery as the film begins. She lives in a self-imposed shell and shows only minor signs of life until Riko comes along to shake her loose. Mitsushima portrays her awakening and awareness with curiosity and joy as she comes to realize she’s worth more than she’s always been led to believe. And Nakamura imbues Riko with such confidence and bravura that you’ll be cheering her on even as she gets lost in her own passion. She begins to suffer her own doubts and pains and the heartache is as visible and obvious as a third hand.

The film’s only real trouble starts around the halfway mark, and by trouble I mean for both our lovers as well as for viewers. The pacing begins to lose control and a series of hurdles are interjected at evenly set intervals. Kakera avoids the large and overdone melodramas often associated with relationship dramas in general and same-sex ones in particular, and they never threaten to take over the film. But there does seem to be quite a few issues cropping up only to be resolved and replaced by yet another one. They’re simple issues any couple could face including doubt, misunderstanding, and fear, but they become tiresome and tedious.

Kakera has some odd and quirky elements to it, but the film as a whole is a calm and measured affair that may seem familiar to anyone who’s traveled the rocky road to love. And while it’s a story about two people falling into each other, it’s just as much a story of one woman’s ascent towards independence and self-awareness. That narrative and character growth helps elevate the film beyond simply a love story and into something better. Some pacing issues crop up in the latter half coupled with some dramatic repetition, but the two strong performances and the overall theme of possibility make it all worthwhile.

The DVD release from Third Window Films features an interview with the director, footage from the movie’s London premiere, and the theatrical trailer. It’s a region 2 DVD so you’ll need an all-region player to view it.

The Upside: Beautifully shot; personal and intimate; humorous performances including dialogue, reactions, and expressions

The Downside: Second half slows to a crawl at times; repetitive nature of relationship issues

Click here to read more Foreign Objects

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.