(The trailer above is without English subtitles but this film will screen subtitled)
It’s not about winning, but being a winner, which makes this the perfect closing film for the fantastic 2015 Japanese Film Festival.
100 Yen Love is a boxing film with heart, that follows the transformation of Ichiko (Sakura Ando), a 32 year old, stay-at-home slob. With no purpose or direction in life, she spends her days playing video games and eating junk food from the 100 Yen Love convenience store. With achingly low self-esteem and severe depression, Ichiko can’t even motivate herself to help in her family’s bento shop until she’s finally kicked out and made to stand on her own.
Securing a night shift at the 100 Yen Love store near to a boxing gym, these humble beginnings start her transformation almost immediately and, after a lifetime of letting people use and, ultimately, abuse her, Ichiko decides to join the gym to learn to defend herself.
Shin Adachi’s touching screenplay is sometimes difficult to watch as we witness the misery of Ichiko’s pre-transformation days. In fact, it takes up more than half of this 2-hour feature film, but that’s okay because it’s not about the sport; it’s about self-punishment, a fighting spirit, and eventually, forgiveness. Like Ichiko herself, he makes us ache for her to win just once.
Director Masaharu Take brings Adachi’s drama to life with sensitivity and is blessed with a true leading lady. His film is full of pathos without forcing us to tears, but we nonetheless feel every step of Ichiko’s powerful journey.
100 Yen Love is Japan’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s 88th Academy Awards but it has already been awarded the Best Film and Best Director gongs at the 2014 Japan Film Professional Awards and, unsurprisingly, Sakura Ando has been crowned Best Actress for her role in both the 2014 Junpo Awards and Blue Ribbon Awards. That, in itself, should be enough to encourage any serious film lover to make their way to the closing film of this year’s Festival.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
All films are spoken in Japanese with English subtitles unless noted otherwise on the Festival website.