Monday, September 22, 2008

Ashita no watashi no tsukurikata or How to become myself

“How To Become Myself” is an introspective film centered around two main characters who appear to be normal, well adjusted girls on the outside at least. The dilemma’s they face are more internalized, none of which involve the more common teen topics you may think of in teen films (romance, sex, drugs, prostitution, terminal illness). In fact outside of a brief romance shown towards the end of the film, there’s not even a love story angle in the movie (surprised me right there). So what else is there to be shown in “How to Become Myself”? The answer is in the title.

Juri is an attractive high school student. But, she’s not the most popular girl in class, that title belongs to Hinako Hanada, and she’s not the resident outcast, that title belongs Kubota Manami. She empathizes with both of those students, although she hasn’t spoken with either of them. She lives behind her own facade of chirpiness and hipness in front of her classmates, fearful that one day they may discover her ordinary real self. At home, Juri feels like the guardian of their house. Their parents frequently quarrel at night and Juri listens and feels obligated to prevent their fights from getting worse. She believes that by becoming a model daughter this will prevent her family from dissolving. At the end of her middle school she finally speaks with Kubota Manami. Although Manami was the most popular girl at one point, she fell in stature to become the outcast of her classroom. During their brief conversation, the two girls share their feelings of detachment for their fellow students and the games that they play in their everyday lives. Now two years later, Juri is in high school and working on her first novel. She’s at a lost on what to write about, so her instructor advises her to just lie, as that is what writers do when creating fiction. Juri still drawing a blank decides to anonymously email Kubota Manami from her middle school class. Manami has forgotten about Juri but they start exchanging emails on a daily basis. Juri advises Manami on things to do to become popular at her new school, while Juri finds inspiration from the emails to finish her novel. The pacing of “How To Become Myself” is deliberate and unrushed. The movie’s visual are equally subdue, but spiced up by the occasional split screens and on screen graphics. The graphics appeared when the girls exchanged emails, displaying the messages shown on their flipscreen phones. Purists may find the pacing and simple visuals to be appealing but I found it uninspiring. The onscreen graphics and split screens didn’t strike me in either a good or bad way. The manner in which those scenes were shown did bring to mind “Take Care of My Cat,” which I felt made better use of cellphones and had a better story to boot. The soundtrack was two notes away from Muzak territory.

The dilemmas that the girls faced may possibly reverberate with teenage girls, but outside of that group I’m not sure how much the film has to offer. I found the movie to be dull and even more detached from the main characters’ identity problems.

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