Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2022 8:50 pm 
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NYAFF intro trailer


The unexpected pregnancy of an art student

The director and playwright Takuya Kato, who presides over the theater company "Tagumi" and has written for some admired Japanese TV including "Heisei Monogatari," helms his first feature film with Grown-Ups, a little drama set deep in the realities of middle class early adulthood that's engaging and keeps viewers on their toes. By shooting in a chic, streamlined style and shuffling chronology of scenes, he has made a conventional enough sequence of events feel fresh and different: Kato is being a bit experimental with basically simple stuff. Even though there is nothing earth-shaking and new here, there's a natural, unexpected effect, and these feel like real people and a real situation. Certain Japanese twenty-somethings ought to find a lot to debate about here. For international festival viewers, Takuya Kato represents a new Japanese director with a distinctive writing and visual style.

The director's theatrical background shows in his way with loose, vernacular dialogue, especially as the relationship between the principals, Yumi (Kiryuu Mai), an art student already selling some of her designs, and Naoya (Fujiwara Kisetsu), an young theater director who wants to have his own company, slides into more and more impossible states of disagreement over her surprise pregnancy. Also theatrical is that a great deal of the action takes place in Yumi's rather nice apartment, which, with the good looks of all the twenty-somethings, contributes to the casual chic of everything - without conflicting with the serious subject matter.

They all (the couple and her friends and other college students) seem like attractive young slackers, the mood so casual the viewer thinks for a while nothing much is ever going to happen. And Naoya is apparently not living with Yumi. That's part of being noncommittal and Gen X, right? But serious stuff sneaks up on them, and us, when she does an at-home pregnancy test, it's positive, and suddenly everything changes. Then come more complications. She's not sure Naoya is the father. There's someone else it could have been. She won't say who; she won't introduce him to Naoya. He accepts this. It most likely is his child. He loves her.

But everything is fluid, and in successive scenes and conversations Naoya and Yumi go through all sorts of changes. For a while he is very loving and caring. But nobody is very forthcoming, and this is certainly not something he'd planned on in his idealistic fantasy of becoming a theatrical director. Note she won't reveal the other possible father. Her refusal to get a DNA test, Naoya's very reasonable request, is a stumbling block hat won't go away. "No, let's just raise the child as if it is ours," she says. Really? Then, her mother dies and she goes home and there are scenes with her father (Kenta Satoi), but Yumi doesn't seem to tell anybody about this, except one friend on the phone who says nothing.

Then all of a sudden Naoya, who has still nominally been residing elsewhere, won't let her come to visit him there and admits he's still rooming with his ex! Arguments continue, and one day Naoya gives Yumi the keys back and goes off with his light bags. Scenes have gone back to show early meetings and first sex; then back to a decisive fight; he leaves; and she stands at the stove and fries a couple of eggs.

Grown-Ups わたし達はおとな ("We Are Adults"), 108 mins., was screened for this review as part of the July 15-31, 2022 New York Asian Film Festival. International premiere.

NYAFF: Saturday Jul 23, 2022 at 9:00pm (Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center)

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