Director: Takahiro Miki
Format: Movie; 126 minutes
Dates: 3 Apr 2010
Synopsis: Meiko and her boyfriend Naruo live together shortly after graduating from college. An office lady and would-be rock musician, the pair try to make ends meet while drifting through the newfound challenges of adult life. They search for meaning while struggling with their lack of direction in their careers. As time passes, these struggles put pressure not only on their professional lives but also on their relationship.
Music: Subtle but effective. Titular insert song is done by popular J-rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
Setting: Plenty of scenic shots used to set the tone.
Plot: Slow but unpredictable.
Solanin is an adaptation of Inio Asano‘s manga of the same name. What the movie lacks in content (much of the plot involves everyday exchanges between the main couple), it makes up for in theme and atmosphere. As intangible a concept like atmosphere may be, Solanin successfully captures the feelings of youthful uncertainty and disillusionment with adult life. Memories are key in this movie— flashbacks are inserted gratuitously into the narrative connecting the beginning of the relationship to its strained later stages. The film is dyed the shade of a nostalgic summer.
All this isn’t half as abstract as it sounds: Solanin is set primarily in the summer and it’s filled with shots that establish the setting. Many scenes are introduced with a series of scenic long shots that try to capture life in the city, accompanied by a few emotive guitar chords that echo the alt-rock sounds of Naruo’s band. Several key scenes are shot with prominent yellow-orange sunlight and summer greenery in the background. There is a definite attention to detail.
The distinctiveness of the setting and tone is good because it draws attention away from the movie’s main flaw: the lack of plot. Put simply, things do not happen in Solanin. There is an expository purpose to most of the scenes, but as clean and unobtrusive as the exposition may be, thematic and structural relevance does not necessarily make uninteresting events more interesting. Solanin drags its feet at times and it is difficult for a first-time viewer to involve themselves in the protagonists’ lives when these lives aren’t too different from reality. The realism is deliberate but sometimes detrimental.
Fortunately, the pace picks up after a key twist in the middle. The plot changes dramatically without much foreshadowing and the viewer is forced to reconsider some of the scenes that may have seemed to be nothing more than mundane exchanges upon first viewing. The themes also solidify at this point, shifting from an ambiguous story about twenty-somethings growing up to a clear one about letting go and moving forward. The movie’s ending is as undecided as its beginning: it is open and broad on one hand, but on the other, it resolves the psychological conflicts and provides closure to the main plot without ruining its realism with forced structure and symmetry.
Solanin‘s overarching achievement is that, for all of its dull moments, it captures its setting effectively and reveals its themes eloquently. The lack of secondary characters and dramatic events are pluses in some ways, creating a rare sense of realism and letting the viewer into the protagonists’ relationship without maudlin monologues and self-explanatory dialogue. This realism allows the few moments of drama and catharsis to feel all the more genuine. Some moments are forgettable but the overall aftertaste will almost certainly linger.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Eternal