Whilst Japanese cinema is widely known for the work of Akira Kurosawa, and to a lesser extent Yasujirō Ozu, latterly it’s become renowned for horror and extreme cinema. There’s always been a strong seem of independent film making in Japan, often under the Western radar, with only a few indie films making it over here for limited theatrical or DVD releases. This is largely due to cultural differences and a lack of public awareness. Thankfully, the trickle of releases seems to have gradually become more plentiful, and A Story of Yonosuke is another fine example of the talent that resides in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It’s 1987 and eighteen-year-old Yonosuke (Kengo Kôra) moves to Tokyo where he finds himself out of step with his more worldly counterparts at university, but his lack of guile and cheerfulness make him a number of friends along the way. He meets Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka) an eccentric rich girl who shows interest in Yonosuke, but Yonosuke is infatuated with a mysterious older woman named Chiharu (Ayumi Ito).
Juxtaposed against Yonosuke’s life are his friends sixteen years later. However, missing is the affable Yonosuke, who is said to have become a cameraman after college. Little do they know of the selfless tragedy that has befallen their “ordinary” friend.
A Story of Yonosuke is a beautiful life-affirming and heart-warming film. At the same time, like many Asian dramas, the offbeat goofy laughs are anchored by a strong emotional backbone. Whilst some of the humour won’t translate to those unfamiliar with Asian cinema, you’ll not be able to stop yourself smiling. Clocking-in at well over two hours, writer/director Shûichi Okita does a great job of letting the story unfold whilst keeping it light but compelling.
If you’re already a fan of Japanese cinema, this is a must. If not, then I’d highly recommend seeking-out A Story of Yonosuke out as a starting point.