“In a gentle and subtle manner the narrative expresses its views on life, love and relationships, views that (…) do not fail to struck an emotional cord”
If one looks at the output of the Japanese movie industry, it is clear that the Japanese audiences love their tearjerker romance movies, e.g. Makoto Shinkai’s anime Kimi No Nawa (2016). While some of these movies are amazing – and can even be considered as masterpieces, the danger this genre faces is a rehashing of tropes, a rehashing draining all the creativity this genre desperately needs.
If we want to find a refreshing take on the romance genre, we shouldn’t look at the Japanese movie companies, who are happy to cash-in on this kind of rehashing, but, instead, to the indie scene. One such indie romance movie is Shingo Matsumura’s Love and Goodbye and Hawaii. Will it fall for the danger of rehashing or does Matsumura provide that touch if freshness the genre needs?
Rinko (Aya Ayano), an OL, and grad student Isamu (Kentaro Tamura), which have already been living together for three years, seem like a happy couple, when we first meet them. But alas the truth is not that rosy, as Rinko is forced to confess to her friends that, even though they still live together, they already broke up 6 months ago. When a letter unearths the romantic interest of another girl in him, Rinko is confronted, beyond any excuses she expresses, with the the fact that her cohabitation situation is intermingled with the remaining feelings she wanted to avoid.
Despite the switching of the narrative viewpoints, which furthers the narrative in tandem, the narrative quickly singles out Rinko’s experience as the main focus of the narrative. It is her inability to leave Isamu’s apartment, her blindness to her emotional ‘reality’ that forms the narrative focus. Some elements of the narrative might appear somewhat familiar, e.g. the boy being blind to the left-over feelings of the girl, but that doesn’t bother at all, as Rinko and Isamu are from the very start of the narrative extremely likable for the spectator. This likableness is mainly caused by the naturalness, so carefully captured by Shingo Matsumura, that grounds their narrative presence and their exchanges with each other and others (cine-note 1). Conversations have a certain familiarity for the viewer, making the narrative lighthearted and these exchanges often quite funny.
In this respect, it might not be wrong to say that Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is a conversational romantic comedy, primarily deriving its laughs from the familiarity the conversational exchanges contain. The way in which conversational scenes, primarily those between Rinko and Isamu, are framed, proves to be very pleasing for the spectator. Besides evoking a resemblance to manzai, these scenes also deliver truly satisfying moments of poetry of movement (cine-note 2). In some cases, the conversational scenes are further strengthened with comedy typical of movement (cine-note 3).
The focus on the interactions, the exchanges of speech and the scenes of daily life, is cinematographically supported by the use of lengthy shots. This focus on speech-exchanges, besides providing comedy, underline – this may well be the thematic focus of the narrative, the fundamental misunderstanding that exists between the sexes (Narra-note 1). Love and goodbye and hawaii vividly shows that is often because of these inescapable misunderstandings, inherent to the use of language, that a relationship and love is not able to endure. Hawaii, in this respect, appears as a screen where Rinko’s fantasy of a perfect and happy relationship is projected on. Besides all the praise we have to give to the scripts and the conversations of the narrative, we should not forget that the theme of accepting the end of a relationship is emotionally touching because the narrative is structured superbly (narra-note 2).
Love and Goodbye and Hawaii is fabulous in its narrative simplicity and its focus on the speech interactions as such. In a gentle and subtle manner the narrative expresses its views on life, love and relationships, views that, by the emotional investment of the spectator in the characters and their narrative, do not fail to struck an emotional cord. Love and goodbye and hawaii is a fresh take on the romance genre and to be honest, Matsumura-san, we want more of this!
Narra-note 1: The fundamental misunderstanding between the sexes is sensible in the conversations between Isamu and Rinko but also in the ever present questioning of “what am I to you?” in love that the narrative underlines.
Narra-note 2: The coinciding of Rinko accepting the end of the relationship with the actual end of the narrative, puts the spectator in the same emotional shoes as Rinko. In our view, this is from a narrative structural viewpoint, a masterstroke.
Cine-note 1: While the performances of the two lead characters shine the most in their naturalness, the performances of the supporting cast should also be mentioned as being natural and satisfying to watch.
Cine-note 2: One remarkable conversational shot is when Rinko is practicing Hawaiian hula dancing with two of her friends, where the dance – from left to right – is in accordance with the exchanges – the friend left of Rinko and Tomomi right of Rinko
Cine-note 3: The comedy of movement is generally found in the following shots, the shots following the characters parallel to the narrative space, e.g. when Rinko and Isamu go walking.