IT’S a weeper based on the true story of Hisashi Nishizawa and Mai Nakahara. The story is about a guy, Hisashi (Takeru Satoh) and a girl, Mai (Tao Tsuchiya), who fall in love, but the girl suddenly falls ill just three months before the wedding in 2007.
A rare brain inflammation sends Mai into a years-long coma. A date had been picked for the wedding, March 17, and the loving Hisashi just doesn’t give up hope that Mai will recover from her coma. But when she awakens in 2011, she cannot remember much including her fiance.
Yoshikazu Okada did a great job on the screenplay which is based on the autobiography written by the couple. The director, Takahisa Zeze, has handled this romance movie with a no-nonsense style that keeps you engaged with the sequences and flashbacks used to tell this tale.
As such, Mai’s health condition and hospital treatment, and her fiance’s care for her is depicted in detail that somehow does not bore the viewer. Or, move one into rivers of tears, at every scene.
For example, in one sequence of events, you will see how Mai’s condition shows no improvement and her family want to employ a caretaker for her but Hisashi decides to look after Mai personally. Every day, he would get up really early and spent time with Mai before going to work. After work, he returns to the hospital.
There is no melodrama, no wails, no pounding on the floor and raging at the hand God has dealt to the couple. I found such a clinical view of what is ultimately a great love story refreshing for this movie genre as it keeps you engaged with what’s unfolding on the screen.
Yes, there are moments of disbelief that she actually recovers, and that he actually stays true to his love. Actress, model and dancer Tsuchiya handles her Mai character with grace. In the non-vegetative scenes — which aren’t that many — the 23-year-old Tsuchiya manages to show the joy Mai has for life itself.
Satoh offers an earnest portrayal of the retiring Hisashi. Known for his role as Ryotaro (Den-O) in the Kamen Rider franchise, the handsome 29-year-old actor brings subtle shine to the admirable devotion of Hisashi to his coma-stricken fiance. The innate goodness of Hisashi is palpable and the director’s hand in such delivery should be applauded.
You will not believe the ending, but remember — this is a true story.
THE 8-YEAR ENGAGEMENT
(8-nengoshi no Hanayome: Kiseki no Jitsuwa)
Directed by Takahisa Zeze
Starring Takeru Satoh, Tao Tsuchiya
Duration 119 minutes
The film is part of the 15th Japanese Film Festival, happening in Johor Baru @ GSC Paradigm Mall JB, Sept 20-23; Kuching @ GSC CityONE Megamall, Oct 4-7; Kota Kinabalu @ GSC Suria Sabah, Oct 4-7.
Visit www.gsc.com.my for details