The best youth drama from Japan recently; comedic romance, elements of fantasy and the mystical combine for this emotional film…
Well-known Japanese director Kei Horie returns after a two year break with his emotional fantasy youth-drama Forget Me Not. Based on Hirayama Mizuho’s 2006 novel ‘Wasurenai to Chiatta Boku ga Ita’, and focusing upon a previous member of the popular J-pop group ‘Momoiro Clover Z’, Forget Me Not is a sublime yet haunting fantasy film exploring how easily forgetful the people that surround us truly are.
The premise of the film focuses around third-year high school student Azusa Oribe (Hayami Akari, star of 2014’s wonderful teen drama My Pretend Girlfriend), and how nobody in her life (not even her father, best friends or teacher) can remember she even exists. Whether the girl is subject to the curse of a vengeful deity or has simply suffered the misfortune of life, the circumstances of her gradual disappearance are as absent as her own presence in the minds of old peers. Azusa appears to be on the brink of giving up, in a world if despair when one night she is finally swept off her feet (quite literally, in a bicycle crash) by the charming, if a little unkempt, Hayama Takashi (Murakami Niijio). The quick meeting with Takashi turns into solid proof that Azusa’s plight may not be forever, as he can remember her for longer than anyone else around, and their young romance blossoms as Takashi proudly vows to forever protect and never forget her.
Kei Horie writes the script, and its superbly patched together as the audience is graced through the experiences of Takashi’s life and his family. Hayami Akari’s acting is on-par with her previous work My Pretend Girlfriend. She practically carries the film on her slight quirks and deep emotional rage, with the audience constantly hanging upon her words and honest composition. Niijiro’s performance meanwhile is slightly overshadowed by his co-star, however his constant ability to be confused, charming yet stalwart is a delightful contrast on screen to the ever full-of-life Azusa.
As the film progresses, the narrative refuses to ever dip into the realm of cheesy or clichéd worn stereotypes, instead remaining fresh and interesting with the use of phones and saved computer files to jog the plot, or cake shops and school books. The complete lack of Azusa from any kind of social network, email account or phone number could explain in someway how easy it is for people to forget her, with the ability to call into question that this lacking in technology is an attempt by the director at questioning the modern lives of the audience. Is it true that living without these digital profiles could lead to our lives being forgotten by those around us, when so much is shared online? Indeed the only thing that leads Takashi to remember Azusa is his saved videos of her, and calendar reminders upon his phone.
The second and third acts of the film are too good to give away, so unfortunately I can’t comment too much more upon the film, however the touching tale of Azusa’s and Takashi’s romance is one of the most emotional pieces of film ever released from Japan. The elements of Azusa’s disappearance and what occurred it are never touched upon much, with scant lines scattered through the film referencing her erasure from life. Will she reappear and return to her life of friends and family? Who knows? But Forget Me Not is surely a film that audiences will fondly remember with a slight tear for years to come.