It does not happens often that someone’s graduation work immediately receives recognition, but When The Rain Stops (2018), Yui Yamaguchi’s graduation work, did just that by snatching the runner-up prize at last year’s PIA Film festival.
One day after Kota (Takumi Takita) has run away from home, Rikako (Yuma Karino) accidently meets him under the bridge. She immediately invites him to hang out together. Both struggling to find a place at home, they find a place for themselves at the bridge they first met.
When the Rain Stops is a narrative about two youths, Rikako and Kota, that have trouble finding a place for their own subjectivity or, in better words, finding a place where their subjectivity is accepted.
Rikako, by not entering a club at Junior high school, realizes a double position within the high-school ‘society’. While her attendance at school puts her inside school-life, her choice of not attending a club puts her outside school-life as well. Her family situation, a reconstituted family, confronts her, in fact, with the same double position. While she is, due to her father’s remarriage, part of the family, the special bond between her stepmother and her daughter Tomomi as well as Tomomi’s complaints about her subtly communicates that she has no real place in the familial situation.
Both situations, on consciously chosen and one she has been unwillingly subjected to, realize what we can call a position of non-belonging. This position of non-belonging is primarily created due to the fact that no one is available to hear her subjectivity. Neither her classmates or her family, i.e. stepmother, stepsister or her absent father, invite her to speak about her subjective feeling of non-belonging. Both situations are devoid of true social bonds, i.e. relations that go beyond the superficial, the ego-to-ego relation.
In Kota’s case, the absence of a father has created a somewhat strange but intimate relation with his mother. The problematic dimension in this relation is not only how his mother relies on him – urging him to be her husband as well as her son at the same time – but also her concern with finding a new husband. In many of the things she says or does, she communicates the fact that finding a new husband is her top-priority. Kota’s mother’s act of cleaning up his manga in order to throw them away, for instance, puts her desire for a new husband firmly above the subjective place her son has realized for him in the apartment. Throwing away his manga is the same as throwing his place within his home away. The sudden introduction of Akkun (-) further endangers the caring position his mother has asked him to realize – Akkun as a replacement for Kota.
By mere chance, Kota and Rikako meet each other. Will they, both marked by a feeling of having no place in their respective familial context, be able to form a lasting friendship (Narra-note 1)? Or will this friendship end up as a repetition of the failure to find a place in a relation where one can be oneself?
Due to the reliance on shaky framing and shaky movement, Yamaguchi’s When the Rains Stops evokes a certain documentary-like feel. While it is obvious by the very composition of scenes that his narrative is fiction, the documentary-style of filming nevertheless underlines that Yamaguchi’s fictive narrative touches upon a truth left unsaid in contemporary Japanese society. More precisely, the cinematography underlines the fact that this kind of alienation, i.e. the difficulty of finding a place for one’s subjectivity, this form of alienation felt by many Japanese youth, is a reality – and, in fact, a pressing problem.
When The Rain Stops is a bittersweet narrative that questions the possibility of friendship beyond the mere ego-to-ego interactions. Yamaguchi’s narrative beautifully asks if it is possible to form friendships that take each person’s subjective position – and wounds – into account and if it is possible for two subjects, who feel they do not belong, to establish a true relation of belonging. When The Rain Stops is truly great and makes us eager to see her future cinematographical projects.
Narra-note 1: The possibility of their friendship is endangered when Rikako’s so-called friends inform Kota of how they see Rikako (e.g. self-centered). One can easily see that their criticisms are merely imaginary constructions, judgements that do not implicate Rikako’s subjectivity. Her friends judge her without ever having asked how she deals with her complex family situation or why she decided not to enter a club.