La La La at Rock Bottom @ Fantasia 2015

Is it truly possible start your life over? This is the main question asked by the Japanese romantic comedy La La La at Rock Bottom. What makes this film shine is the fact that it doesn’t try to answer that question with a bunch of sappy film clichés. In fact, while the film is gentle in spirit, it also doesn’t shy away from brutal violence. Those contrasts make the film offbeat at times, but also more realistic.

When the film starts, we are introduced to a mysterious man (Subaru Shibutani) being released from prison. Hours after his release, he’s beaten brutally in the street and left for dead. When he awakes, he has no memory of who he is.

After wandering around town in an amnesia-induced daze, our mystery man breaks up a music gig and impresses its teenage leader Makiko (Sarina Suzuki). Allowed to make her own decisions since her parents are dead and her grandfather has dementia, Makiko decides to let mystery man stay with her. She even nicknames him Poochie after her dead dog.

Shibutani and Suzuki share an easy chemistry. Its easy to believe that, in their own weird way, these two strangers are perfect for each other. Suzuki especially shines in her role as a young woman who has taken on way too much responsibility for her age and is trying to make the best of it.

The screenwriter Kanno Tomoe also deserves praise. He has crafted a story that leaves the audience ultimately feeling uplifted, without resolving everything in a neat little bow. And that’s something that’s hard to find in North American film. It’s easy to imagine an LA screenwriter squeezing out every bit of heart in a Hollywood remake. Let’s just hope that day never comes, and this film can stay in its own little weird universe forever.

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