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Film review: A Story of Yonosuke

Yvonne Teh

 

A STORY OF YONOSUKE
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu
Director: Shuichi Okita
Category: IIA (Japanese)

 

Shuichi Okita's unhurried adaptation of Shuichi Yoshida's novel opens in 1987 Tokyo, with its mop-topped protagonist arriving at Hosei University (the novelist's real-life alma mater).

From the start, Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kengo Kora) comes across as physically - and sometimes socially - awkward and the young man from a small coastal town near Nagasaki is marked out as something of a character. Among his many quirks is a habit of sniffing himself when he's nervous.

But there is also something endearing about him, as those who get to know him soon discover. Among them are two fellow first-year students in his business administration programme - the impetuous Ippei (Sosuke Ikematsu) and the cute Yui (Aki Asakura). And despite none of them possessing much in the way of rhythm, the trio join the university samba club.

Yonosuke also befriends the cool Kato (Go Ayano), another student on his course, and through him meets Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka), a scion of a wealthy family who is equally quirky and endearing in her own way.

While a few scenes take place on campus, a good part of the film has the undergraduate student - who takes a part-time job as a hotel bellboy - interacting with people outside his university. These include Yonosuke's parents and friends back home on the island of Kyushu and, in Tokyo, a sophisticated beauty (Ayumi Ito), whom the country boy falls for, and a photographer neighbour whose work inspires Yonosuke to start taking pictures.

The meandering story of Yonosuke and the impact he has on his new-found friends is mostly told through a series of awkward vignettes. And at first, the story feels like it's jumping from one unrelated sub-plot to another.

In the second half of the film, a revelation about Yonosuke's fate seems to have been included to add some depth and gravity to the narrative, but it nearly gets bogged down in sentimentality.

A Story of Yonosuke would have been better served by going for a lighter approach as its comic moments strike more of a chord. While its main character is charming, the film is in danger of overstaying its welcome long before its 160 minutes draw to a close.

yvonne.teh@scmp.com

 

A Story of Yonosuke opens on July 4

 

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