Cafe Funiculi Funicula film review: sentimental time-travel drama starring Kasumi Arimura

  • For the time it takes to drink a coffee, cafe customers who choose the right seat can time-travel in this book adaptation
  • The director’s debut feature, the film lacks visual creativity
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 5:11pm

2/5 stars

Cafe Funiculi Funicula employs a fantastical time-travel premise to teach its characters how to seize the moment and let go of their regrets. Inevitably less interested in science fiction than melodrama, the film, based on the novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Junwa Kawaguchi, unspools in a series of emotionally rewarding vignettes as customers attempt to reconnect with loved ones from their past.

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When occupying a particular seat in Kazu’s (Kasumi Arimura) cafe, customers can travel backwards or forwards in time, but only for as long as it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Should their drink go cold, travellers will be unable to return home. This explains the ghostly woman (Yuriko Ishida) who regularly sits there.

The rules also dictate that the past cannot be changed, nor can you venture outside the cafe. Finally, only a woman from the Tokita family can pour the coffee, a duty Kazu alone commands.

The first feature from TV director Ayuko Tsukahara, Cafe Funiculi Funicula retains a televisual feel thanks to its episodic structure and limited use of locations. The time-travel sequences employ an inventive water motif that teases a visual creativity sadly lacking elsewhere, while no attempt is made to explain how or why it is even possible.

We observe Kazu as she selflessly facilitates other people’s grief management, until prospective love interest Ryosuke (Kentaro Ito) can engineer a solution for her to confront her own past regrets. But in doing so, the film must also willingly discard the rules it has spent its entire duration repeatedly hammering home.

Cafe Funiculi Funicula opens on October 25

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