Set in the northern prefecture of Aomori, with its strong local dialect and attenuated connections to modern industrialized Japan, Ito tells the story of a high school girl whose shyness, reinforced by her heavy local accent, belie a fierce desire for independence and the courage to overcome her social shortcomings. Played with great subtlety by Ren Komai, who like her director Satoko Yokohama hails from Aomori, Ito ventures into the world by taking part-time work at a maid cafe, where she must dress in a cute uniform (although not like the short tight little black numbers found in Tokyo's Akihabara district) and project an outgoing jollity to the customers that is completely at odds with her personality.
Gradually, with the help of her kindly manager and co-workers, she opens up, somewhat, in a series of amusing episodes. Ito's personality has been shaped by the loss of her mother at the age of five and her life with her somewhat pedantic university professor father and her shamizen-playing grandmother, portrayed by a real professional player, Yoko Nishikawa. In the shamizen, which Ito has learned by listening and imitation, she is able to express some of her strength and determination in place of the words that do not come so easily.
While the set up of the somewhat isolated teenager finding a way out of her shell is hardly new, this film is distinguished by its calm, steady pacing, the appeal of its various characters in the unfamiliar setting of rural northern Japan, and above all, Ren Komai's finely tuned performance. Quite tall by Japanese standards at 5 foot 7, her gangly awkwardness adds a physical dimension that perfectly corresponds to her character but above all she never misses a note in her scenes with her family, her colleagues, or the customers. The film ends as it should . . . I will say no more but it is satisfying without being cloying. Yokohama has not created a masterpiece but she has shown once again how movies can make you care.
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SOMA Ito (KOMAI Ren) is a high school student in Hirosaki City, Aomori. Her hobby is playing the Tsugaru shamisen, a three-string instrument that is popular in her home prefecture. She picked up the skill from her late mother, a talented shamisen player in her own right. While Ito can express herself through music, talking is a little harder due to shyness, which, when coupled with her strong Tsuguru dialect, makes it hard for her to communicate. And so she has few friends but, despite this, she has a strong inner spirit and she makes a big decision to start a part-time job at a maid cafe, much to the concern of her father Koichi (TOYOKAWA Etsushi). With every meeting that Ito has, her confidence begins to grow. —OAFF
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
March 05, 2022 at 10:15 PM