Short Movie Time: Two Of Us (2019) [Female Gaze – Japan Society]

Introduction

With her previous short film – Three morning (2017), Risa Negishi already proved to have the talent to deliver something special. Can her second short film Two Of Us re-affirm her talent and open more paths for her to express her creative mind?

Review

Yui (Manami Usamaru) and Hana (Meirin) have been friends for a long time. Yet, from Yui’s perspective, their relationship is not all that she wants it to be. Yui sometimes helps her brother’s ex-wife by caring for her brother’s daughter, Karin (-). While Karin talks to her, she remains awkwardly silent when her mother enters the house.

Two of Us (2022) by Risa Negishi

Despite what the title might imply, Two of Us is anunderstated but kaleidoscopic exploration of loneliness within relationships. Rather than being about two people together, Negishi’s narrative explores how two subjects feel alonewithin their respective relationships: Yui with respect to Hana and Karin with respect to her mother.

It’s obvious that something does not work well in the relationship between Karin and her mother. The lack of speech between them is, as is fleetingly evoked in the beginning of Two Of Us, due to her mother’s lack of attention to her daughter and her ignorance of her daughter’s unvocalized demand for love. The tension within their relationship is further enhanced by Karin’s attempt to address her discontent to her mother with silence.

The relationship between Yui and Hana is not without stumbles and struggles either. What ‘malfunctions’ within their interactions is that the disturbances at the level of the imaginary (e.g. Hana invites Yusuke on Yui’s birthday, she does not pay attention to what she says on the phone, …etc.), confronts her with the lack of inter-subjective bond between them. In other words, Hana fails to hear her unvocalized subjective demand – a demand for her love.

Two of Us (2022) by Risa Negishi

It is, furthermore, by having such unsaid – an unsaid that is not put into signifiers for fear of destroying the bond that is – that Yui has times where she feels abandoned as subject and is confronted with what she has lost. Yui’s search for the meaning of ‘being special to someone’ in the arms of a man is not only an attempt to solve the riddle of why Hana cannot consider her as a ‘boyfriend’ but also to confirm the special nature of her feelings for Hana.

The composition of Two Of Us is pleasantly dynamic (colour-note 1). Negishi, furthermore, uses her imagery to elegantly emphasize that what speaks without using signifiers – i.e. that what facial expressions and the body echo of what silently stirs the subject. Moreover, she decorates her composition with fleeting experimental visual sequences (i.e. flash-back effects, cut-to-blacks, … ). These sequences are not simple visual surges aimed to prove Negishi’s compositional talent, but also to evoke certain truths that play a role in determining contemporary loneliness (e.g. the blossoming of the screen) and evoking the ‘noise’ that disturbs most relationships in one way or another.     

Two of Us is a really engaging short-film that elegantly shows how a subject can feel alone within a relationship. Moreover, Negishi shows that this subjective discontent either finds its expression in relational silence or in signifiers that fail to be heard by the other subject. This is, in fact, a short-film that proves that its creator is ready to tackle the daunting task of making a feature film. 

Notes

Colour-note 1: The visual pleasure of the narrative is not only ensured by Negishi’s experimental and evocative decorations, but also by her choice to bring her narrative to live withnatural colour-schemes and lighting.

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