With only a few films under his belt, it is not surprising that director Ryohei Yoshino is not that well-known yet internationally. Luckily, with his adaptation of Kikuko Tsumura’s Kimi wa Eien ni Soitsura yori Wakai this might all change.
At a drinking party with her fellow students, one of the students reveals that Horigai (Yui Sakuma), a sociology student, has landed her first job as a child welfare caseworker. Not much later, she is verbally attacked by another student who states that she’ll never make it (Narra-note 1). Before she effectively throws something face to stop his relentless attacks, she slips away to join Yossy (Seiichi Kohinata), who has just arrived. He introduces her to Homine (Sho Kasamatsu), a guy who just spent some time at the police office for ‘abducting’ a child marked by parental neglect, a child that otherwise might have starved to death.
At her part-time-job, Horigai has to endure the constant chattering of her younger colleague Yasuda (Yo Aoi) – he cannot stop talking about the cute E.T.-faced girl he is in love with. And due to certain circumstances, a friendship blossoms between her and Inogi (Nao), a philosophy student.
Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots offers an elegant exploration of the subjective obstacles that youthful subjects, who are on the verge of joining society, are confronted with and the way they try to resolve these lingering struggles that either determine the image they present to others or organize the way their interactions with the Other. As the narrative unfolds, Yoshino beautifully reveals that what aids the subject most in his coming-into-being is the chance to address a kind of speech to the Other that goes beyond the imaginary field of understanding, to confront the Other with a subjective enunciation that ripples the empty chitter-chatter (Narra-note 2).
So, what is the conflict that marks Horigai as a subject? At first, the spectator is introduced to her fatalistic attitude – I’m always waiting to lose, an attitude born from what she calls the Ima-Yamada incident (i.e. a childhood fight she would have won if another boy did not join arms with her enemy). Due to this incident, the idea that the ‘bad’ will always find its way to spoil the ‘right’ outcome took root in her, thereby robbing her from her drive to pursue what is ‘good’ (for her).
The effect of this subjective fatalism is subtly felt in the way she approaches the male other, in the jokes that decorate her interactions with them – Marry me, will you?. It is within such jokes that her own defeat lies and her own acceptance as loser resides. One could argue that this fatalism – i.e. to pursue the good invites the bad – plays a role in her failure to give the pain that marks the Other its place and his Otherness its right to be heard. In Yasuda’s case, she does not simply fail to lend him her ear – or an eye, but forces signifiers-of-help on him to stop the expression of his subjective suffering.
Yet, while Horigai’s fatalism is caused by this childhood incident, its continued power to influence Horigai’s signifiers and acts resides in the core subjective fantasy that she is an irreparable defect that no one wants or wants to ‘sexually’ approach. Her subjective and relational struggle is animated by the subjective realization that she cannot understand how others feel and cannot move fluidly in the imaginary field of supposed understanding, in the field of empathy (Narra-note 3). Yet, given her relational struggle, can Horigai find an opportunity to perform an act that can grant her the right to believe that she can succeed as a child welfare worker?
Yossy struggles with the death of his best friend. Yet, his death only becomes problematic for him when he learns that his friend committed suicide and a quantum of guilt bursts forth within him. That his attitude towards Horigai changes drastically (e.g. lashing out violently, ignoring her calls, etc.) is not so much due to her behaviour but because he is not able to drain himself from this guilt.
In Yasuda’s case, his subjective struggle is revealed when Horigai corners him to ask about his sudden absences at work. Unsurprisingly, his absences are caused by an imaginary injury inflicted by his E.T.-faced girl – She stopped reading his messages after a failed sexual encounter. Horigai learns, whether she wants or not, that he struggles, mentally as well as sexually, with the size of his penis. While there have been a lot of chances for him to lose his virginity, the pain on the faces of the girls he is about to penetrate radically deflates his sexual desire. Is Yasuda doomed to spend his days sexless due to the size of his member or can he find, by it by force or by mere chance, a kind of solution?
Nevertheless, the revelation of his subjective struggle puts his excess of talking in a different light. His talking is highly symptomatic. It does not simply aim at ensuring himself that a sexual relation will be possible, but violently tries to suppress the lingering fear of having another sexual failure and another phallic injury of his ego.
And what about Inogi? What is the scar that troubles her subjective and relational functioning? What kind of past does she carry with her?
The composition of Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots is full of nicely composed static shots and fluid and crude floating dynamism (Cine-note 1). Yet, in some cases, the composition of static shots do not merely offer a fleeting moment of visual pleasure, but also echo a certain signified (Cine-note 2).
The crude dynamic moments ensure that a certain naturalistic feel lingers within Yoshino’s composition and helps breathing a sense of believability into the fictional narrative. Of course, the natural colour-schemes and lightning-design also support this naturalistic feel, while also heightening the visual impact of certain shot-compositions.
Yet, what truly engages the spectator within the narrative are the acting-performances and the way these performances breathe life into the rhythm of the interactions. Whether the interactions are driven by aggression or complicated by a sudden tension, whether they constitute a playful game of subtle seduction or allow for a fleeting moment of imaginary connection, every emotion that rears its head between and within the vocalized signifiers has a genuine feel. Yui Sakuma, who portrays Horigai, impresses with her charming and layered expressiveness and Yo Aoi, who plays Yasuda, avoids with heartfelt performance to turn his character’s subjective struggle into a comical pun.
The musical accompaniment is thoughtfully applied and, as a result, quite effective. Rather than dictating the emotions of the spectator, the musical decorations enhance the emotions on display or strengthen the emotions that struggle to find their expression.
Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots is a narrative that, due to its elegant engendering of genuine emotions, offers a touching exploration of the subjective obstacles that complicate the subject’s coming-into-being and his inter-personal functioning. Yet, the ultimate power of Yoshino’s narrative resides in the uncovering that what allows the subject to resolve his inhibition is the chance, given by the other, to address his speech to the Other. Highly recommended.
Narra-note 1: The dynamic of the drunk guy’s verbal-attacks is radically exploitative. In an attempt to cover up his own subjective discontent, he reduces Horigai to an object to be verbally abused for a few shots of fleeting pleasure.
Narra-note 2: The narrative elegantly shows that what the struggling subject needs is not an other-of-empathy, but an other that functions as Other. The silence by which the other responds does not simply allow the subject to address the societal Other, but also grant him the chance to confront himself with his own signifiers, his own enunciations born from the Other stage (the unconscious).
The ultimate response that Horigai receives from Inogi as Other should also be read in two-ways. While this act gives expression to what Inogi feels, her act also echoes the radical acceptance by herself as Other – we are all defects, only as defects can we desire and love.
Narra-note 3: Horigai’s struggles to suppress the radical truth that marks all speaking beings. The subject is mere lack. There is no harmonious sexual relation between two subjects. What she ‘misses’ is the ability to misrecognize this radical lack by exploiting the imaginary dimension of speech.
Cine-note 1: The beauty of fixed shots is due to a pleasant use of depth-of-field and an elegant exploitation of the dimension of geometry.
Cine-note 2: For instance, by contrasting the funeral-sequence with a shot of the rolling rollers of conveyor belt at Horigai’s part-time job, Yoshino elegantly evokes that time stops for no-one and that life goes on no matter what happens.
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totally underrated gem, great narrative, strong themes, fine perfs from both actresses, especially Nao’s