Parallel World Love Story (2019) review


Many people have declared, over the years, that Keigo Higashino’s novel Parallel World Love Story (1995) cannot be adapted to the silver screen. Yet, many years after its first publication, Mori Yoshitaka, known from his impressive film Satoshi: A Move For Tomorrow (2016), undertakes this seemingly impossible task.


Ever since he spotted Mayuko Tsuno (Riho Yoshioka) on the train, Takashi Tsuruga (Yuta Tamamori) has felt attracted to her. Then one day, after graduating from university and joining a company doing brain-research, his closest friend and colleague Tomohiko Miwa (Shota Sometani) introduces Mayuko as his girlfriend. Takashi is stunned.  

Takashi wakes up. In the kitchen, he tells his girlfriend Mayuko that he had a strange dream, but, as he forgot what it was about, he cannot divulge any details with her. At night, Takashi suddenly asks Mayuko about Tomohiko. Mayuko, slightly shaken by this question, tells him that he transferred to L.A. last month. Takashi, while accepting her answer, nevertheless cannot quench the unsettling thought that Tomohiko was somehow almost deleted from his memory. As his strange dreams continue, Takashi starts doubting the truthfulness of his memories.    

Parallel World Love Story is a mystery romance narrative that explores, in a certain sense, the phenomenology of memory. The questioning of the phenomenology of memories is fundamental both to the romantic side of the narrative as well as the mystery that propels the narrative forward.

The mystery of Parallel World Love Story is twofold. First, what is happening to Takashi and why? And secondly, what role does Tomohiko play in all this? As both sides of the mystery are interlinked, the spectator has, from the beginning of the narrative, the feeling that solving the mystery surrounding Tomohiko – what drives him? What is his end-goal? – will also explain the confusing and disorienting condition that affects Takashi.

Parallel world Love Story (2019) by Yoshitaka Mori

The structure of the narrative is highly effective in keeping the mystery palpable for the spectator an keep him, until the very end of the narrative, on the edge of his seat. We, as spectator, are only given a hint about what is at stake: memory modification. Very early in the narrative, Tomohiko confesses that he, without asking the approval of the ethics committee, succeeded to rewrite a memory of his colleague Shinozaki (Hiroya Shimizu).

Without spoiling too much, we can divulge that the truth of both sides of the mystery lies in the relationship between Tomohiko and Takashi as such, a relationship slowly disrupted by the sudden presence of a third element, the romantic element Mayuko. Moreover, Tomohiko’s sudden obsession with his research – his discovery – also seems partially function of the disruption of their friendship.   

Parallel world Love Story (2019) by Yoshitaka Mori

What can we say about Takashi’s condition? The confrontation of his ‘dreams’ with his memories as well as the erasure of certain memories do not only put his memory in question but also disorients him as ego. If we can think of memories as being the foundation of the subject’s ego, the putting-into-question of the memory device also puts the ego as such into question. In this respect, Takashi’s reliance on the Other to confirm the truthfulness of his memories surrounding Tomohiko Miwa (e.g. the questions he asks Mayuko about his memories) also aim to maintain the foundation of his ego and to ensure that he maintains a sense of self. But, alas, this Other is deceptive. Only by knowing which ego-narrative has an object-ive basis and which one has not, can Takashi know which reminiscential narrative is truly his.

Yet, knowing which ego-narrative has an object-ive base, does not solve Takashi’s subjective turmoil. It, in fact, instigates a subjective crisis. The assumption of his ego-narrative engenders a new confrontation: the discrepancy between the ego-narrative he needs to accept as his own and the reality that realized his desire for Mayuko and which found its support in his deceptive ego-narrative (psycho-note 1). Why does the reality, the reality that heeds his romantic desire, differs from the ego-narrative that he needs to assume as his own? This is, in fact, the ultimate mystery Parallel World Love Story confronts the spectator with (Narra-note 1).

Parallel world Love Story (2019) by Yoshitaka Mori

The composition of Parallel World Love Story might, at first, feel like a more static affair than a dynamic one, Yoshitaka’s composition is full of subtle (and less subtle) cinematographical movement. While, in many cases, this dynamism is merely used to provide compositional variety – a tracking or spatial movement here and there, Yoshitaka also utilizes dynamic elements, like zoom-ins or zoom-outs, in a decorative manner to accentuate certain moments that are relevant to Takashi as subject (e.g. him watching Mayuko on the train) (Cine-note 1).   

What stands out in the composition of Parallel World Love Story is its effective musical accompaniment, an accompaniment thoughtfully used to strengthen the romantic dimension of the narrative. In the narrative’s opening sequence, it is only by way of a musical piece that the spectator believes the genuineness of Takashi’s romantic interest in Mayuko. It is, first and foremost, the music that gives weight to his (romantic) narrating speech and the visual composition that visualizes this romantic interest (Music-note 1). This initial moment as well as those other moments of romance keep Takashi’s romantic desire tangible for the spectator throughout the unfolding of the narrative and enable Yoshitaka’s film to become a truly engaging and satisfying experience (Cine-note 2). In truth, without the effective evoking of his love for Mayuko, the entire plot would have fallen flat.

Parallel world Love Story (2019) by Yoshitaka Mori

Parallel World Love Story is an engaging and satisfying mystery romance experience that dares to engage the spectator into a phenomenological questioning of memories. The ultimate point of Yoshitaka’s narrative is that the reality we perceive is always marked by our ego and our subjectivity (i.e. our desire and fantasy). In other words, we subjectify our reality, we read the external reality through the lens of our desires and our fantasies. Moreover, his narrative touchingly reveals that what, in most cases, forms the basis for intersubjective conflicts is nothing other than the discrepancy between the reality as perceived and the unfulfilled subjective sexual desires one holds dear (Narra-note 2).


Psycho-note 1: The difficulty that Takashi is posed with is that fact that memories are fictive constructs. They might be based on an event that really took place, but they can only be inscribed in the subject in a fictive manner. Takashi, bombarded with conflicting memory fragments, has no way to discern which fictive constructs are based on a real event or which are not. For him, both feel as “real”. It is this conflict that disorients him.      

His first attempt is to use the Other to confirm the ‘truthfulness’ of his memories. Alas, the memories of this Other are subjected to the same limitations – the Other cannot provide an objective basis for any kind of memory. The only way to ensure oneself that a fictive construct has any basis in an objective event is to find in the world an object (e.g. a photograph) that can prove the object-ive nature of the event that was subjectified into a memory.       

Cine-note 1: Yoshitaka often uses slow horizontal spatial shots to frame conversations.   

Music-note 1: Another moment where musical accompaniment elevates the emotional import of the sequence is when Tomohiko recounts how he first met Takashi in middle school.  

Cine-note 2: The other moments of romance always refer, be it visually or via speech, to this initial moment. These other moments of romance are, moreover, accompanied by the same musical piece as the one used to punctuate Takashi’s romantic interest in the initial moment of romance. In this sense, one could say that all moments of romance echo the initial moment of romance, the moment when Takashi fell in love with Mayuko and their eyes first met.  

Narra-note 1: The ultimate mystery is, in fact, the third face – a reformulation – of the twofold mystery that drives the narrative from the very beginning.

Narra-note 2: In a certain sense, Parallel World Love Story is also about the fact that memories are fundamental in making subject unable to interact which each other at the level of their subjectivity.  


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