Thursday, 18 November 2010

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: Sweet Little Lies


I messed up slightly with this one – got my timings wrong and missed the first 20 minutes of the film. But I was determined to watch it, so stay I did and ended up taking in a beautifully sweet, infinitely sad bittersweet tale of a young married couple who aren’t in love but desperately want to be.

Like I said I missed the beginning so I’m not very clear on how Ruriko and Satoshi met and ended up getting married, and whether their relationship was anything other than it is now: awkward, polite and cavernous. Both are very different characters: Ruriko is creative, sensitive and a free spirit, whilst Satoshi is more quiet and intense, clumsy and confused – unsure of where his feelings lie, unsure of how to express them, and unsure what they really mean for him. Both are having affairs and both keep this secret from one another, although it’s possible they know the truth and accept that this extra marital ‘bonding’ needs to exist to keep their own marriage alive.

That’s what so strange and oddly fascinating about Sweet Little Lies - the lies are sweet because they’re actually doing more to help than to hinder. Neither Ruriko or Satoshi want to be with their respective lovers – what they really want is to transfer their feelings and passion from the ‘stand-in’ to each other and make their marriage work. This is shown when they celebrate their wedding anniversary together at a restaurant where Satoshi went on a date with his girlfriend, and when Satoshi asks Ruriko if she wants him to hold her (and thus the two stand in a queer, non touching embrace for several seconds before Ruriko indicates to stop). The film is too slight for cymbal clashing displays of emotion and is about as opposite to melodrama as you can get, but that doesn’t stop the actors from being able to effectively convey their feelings despite being so reserved – every look, word and action is important. I wouldn’t say you ever fully ‘route’ for the pair, but there’s something so rewarding in their fierce loyalty to one another that makes you fully believe in their complicated relationship.

The ending was beautiful – I loved the veiled messages behind their words to one another:

“I’m home.”
“Did you go away?”
“Yes, but I’m back now.”
“That’s good.”
“How about you?”
“I’m coming home soon.”

Very glad this got a special mention from the Golden Owl jury (it would have been a worthy winner to be fair, and better than the actual champion) – it’s a film that digs its way into your subconscious and stays there, marked out for its unusual approach to love and its subtle, beautiful scenes (Ruriko lying in the grave with the dead dog to name one) and also occasional touches of black comedy which is always appreciated over here. Really interested to check out some other work by director Hitoshi Yazaki now, and it makes me wish he had been the guy to take charge of the big screen adaptation of Norwegian Wood - he would have felt at home.




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