Yuki Horiuchi is young directorial talent that has already garnered some promising awards. In 2021, his Spring Has Fxxking Come won the Audience Award and Special Jury Prize (bestowed by director Hideo Jojo) at the 32nd Tokyo Student Film Festival. Last year,his film I’m Absolutely Cute, Maybe won the Grand Prix at the Gallery N Film Exhibition. And how does his latest film All Summer Long fare? Does Horiuchi deliver another award-worthy narrative?
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August 31st, the end-of-summer. College student Shuichi Naka (Masahiro Narahara) musters up all his courage and calls Rinko Minata (Riho Toshio). He asks her to meet him, because he needs to tell her something. It has to be today because summer ends today. Sadly, Rinko tells him to call back later – she is having a row with her current boyfriend (Yuki Tomoyama).
Kento Hoshi (Hinata Sano), who works at a convenience store, is trying to ask his colleague Kyoko (Nanase Tetsu) out. Yet, due to her cold and disinterested attitude – emphasized by her singular focus on the screen of her mobile phone, he struggles to express himself well. Not much later, she refuses him.
In a local park, Taku Yamanobe (Ryo Igarashi) is approached by Kimi Sarue (Ayano Kasumi). Both have a job interview at 18:00 at Magenta. Yet, a phone call by HR department of Magenta to inform them that the interview is put off as CEO Sakaguchi went missing. To brighten up their final summer as university students, Kimi Sarue proposes to search for the CEO while drinking.
All Summer Long is a rather melancholic exploration of the importance of ending things but the difficulty to do so. Horiuchi beautifully shows that what truly troubles the subject is not the act of finishing things but the inability to do so. It is the never-ending summer of our suffering that needs, in some way or another, to finds its definite conclusion. Each character in Horiuchi’s narrative is marked by something they cannot yet end.
In the case of Rinko, it is quite evident what she cannot end: her relationship. Why? To answer this question we need to uncover what Rinko Minato’s violent way of refusing the break-up with her current boyfriend reveals about her subjective logic. While she says “I’m not breaking up with you” to her lover, her threatening knife silently enunciates “I will not allow you to break up with me”. This strange contrast pinpoints the somewhat twisted hysteric logic that animates her. She needs his presence in a radical way not simply to feel loved, but to feed her ‘existence’ as subject. Whether his love for her is genuine or not does not matter, what matters is his presence because that and only that allows her to find solace in her hysteric phantasma of having the Other’s love and being worthy of existing.
While Shuichi Naka’s sudden call has the air of ending in a love confession, he is merely looking for closure for a costly failure he made four years ago at a regional baseball tournament, to end his suffering by performing an act addressed to Rinko. But will she be able to understand the subjective struggle that marked him for four years? And can she utilize him to destroy her own hysterical tendency of manipulating the beloved other to safeguard his presence?
In the case of Kento and Kyoko, the end concerns, to put it vaguely, love. The central statement vocalized within their awkward interactions is a reference Kyoko makes to the famous writer Osamu Dazai: “You act too shy to confess your love, but only to protect yourself”. While it is evident that her cold presence – a coldness underlined by the lack of eye-contact she makes, makes Kento uneasy, her statement underlines that the true source of his shyness and faltering speech is his fear of being hurt and rejected by her. What speaks through his signifiers is not, as it should be, his romantic interest in her, but solely his fear. His signifiers, which breathe out his fear, thus fail to give his romantic interest its weight and, as a result, his earnest desire to date her does not reach her at all.
Given her cold-hearted presence, spectators might wonder what attracts Kento to Kyoko. Unsurprisingly, it is a mundane thing of beauty that caught his eye and, as a result, entrapped his desire. By highlighting this in his narrative, Horiuchi fleetingly evokes how desire works and how it, despite the way this other treats us, pushes the subject to make this other into his beloved. So, can Kento eventually muster up the courage to express his love for Kyoko or will the flame of desire take him by surprise?
And which kind of end is at stake in the couple Taka Yamanobe and Kimi Sarue? The answer to this question lies in the solution to the riddle of Kimi Sarue inviting Taka for a walk-and-drink party. Why does she search for some fun to end her summer?
And how can we interpret the talking head (Takeshi Matsumoto) at the beach? While some spectators will surely view the head as the voice of the unconscious, the signifiers it addresses to his particular other reveals it to essentially echo the voice of the societal Other as absorbed by the subject – the conversation the head has with Shuichi Naka and some others have the air of being a sort of inner dialogue (Narra-note 1). Yet, maybe, who the head is and the reason for his presence at the beach will be uncovered as the various narratives intertwine.
What makes All Summer Long so pleasant is the narrative structure and the conversational flow. While the narratives meanders, seemingly without clear direction, Horuichi ties up all his narratives in such a way that the dimension of the ‘end’ is touchingly and nostalgically felt. The conversations unfold quite naturally. This naturalistic element of the conversations is most evident in those moments where speech falters and hampers and where conversations stumble and open up the void of silence.
The composition of All Summer Long is quite straightforward. While dynamic moments are present, Horiuchi relies mainly on concatenations of static shots to tell his story (Cine-note 1). Moreover, by utilizing the cut thoughtfully, he gives his narrative a rather slow rhythm. Both elements are extremely beneficial in heightening the impact of the three intertwining stories on the spectator as it gives the cast the space to bring what speaks without signifiers – i.e. body-language and facial expressions, and the relational and subjective tensions that are born from what remains unsaid in a natural way to the fore.
All Summer Long also pleases with its naturalistic lighting and colour-design. Yet, it is also the field where the low-budget nature of the film is most sensible. The lightning can be uneven, changing too much according to the position of the camera.
All Summer Long is a narrative that succeeds in satisfying the spectator due to its natural conversations and its ending sequence. While Horiuchi’s narrative is all about the difficulty of ending things, the melancholic dimension of what has to end only comes to full emotional blossom as the finale reaches its conclusion and the credits start rolling. Highly recommended.
Narra-note 1: In the case of Shuichi Naka,the head tries to stop him from committing suicide. Yet, Naka sets the head at rest by telling him that he is not about to kill himself. But, is the head’s intuition truly wrong? It could very well be that Naka has not met his own unconscious suicidal impulse yet.
Cine-note 1: In some cases, Horiuchi throws some tracking movement into the mix. Yet, these dynamic moments are but simple decorations.