Oto-na-ri   2009   Japan Romantic Prelude
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Director:Naoto Kumazawa
Studio:J Storm
Writer:Naoto Kumazawa, Yukiko Manabe
IMDb Rating:7.2 (94 votes)
Awards:1 win
Duration:119 min
Naoto Kumazawa  ...  (Director)
Naoto Kumazawa, Yukiko Manabe  ...  (Writer)
Junichi Okada  ...  Satoshi
Kumiko Asô  ...  Nanao
Mitsuki Tanimura  ...  Akane
Yoshinori Okada  ...  Himuro
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi  ...  Shingo
Mitsuru Hirata  ...  
Mikako Ichikawa  ...  
Tomohiro Kaku  ...  
Leo Morimoto  ...  
Yutaka Shimizu  ...  
Maho Toyota  ...  
Goro Yasukawa  ...  Composer
Masayuki Fujii  ...  Cinematographer
Comments: This is worth a rental to watch with someone just to discuss the ending. It's one of those "Love was right under your nose the whole time" stories that doesn't have a lot of gas in the tank but it finds a reasonable parking place at the end, an ending which is at first frustrating, then appealing. Then it's back and forth in your mind leaving you unsure if it's a cop out or something inspired. I found it to be acceptable and ultimately enjoyed its resolve, with all its implied storyline.

Oto-na-ri is about two lonely souls, early thirties and, of course, attractive but somehow alone in life. They live next door to one another in an apartment building with paper thin walls and take in elements of each other's life through the sounds and conversations each of them produce. But they never see each other. It's clear that the movie is about these two people but it's not real clear it's going to be about them getting together (or not).

Kumiko Aso plays the girl. She works in a flower shop and is studying to become a professional florist. She will be leaving for France in the very near future—so throw in a "Time is of the essence" plot line for tension. Junichi Okada plays the boy, a professional photographer who may or may not be leaving for Canada in the very near future to take landscape pictures. They are two artistic souls, as characters, to lend a little of the poetic to the proceedings but they're not overly emo.

It's a standard formula to follow the lives of two separate yet somehow implicitly connected people and make us feel that if these two folks would just meet they'd fall in love and all would be well in the world. I wasn't particularly intrigued with either of the two individual stories, a fault of a not very mature script, but I did like the characters, probably because Kumiko Aso is a wonderful and skilled actress who doesn't have a bad moment in the film, and Junichi Okada, a matriculated boy band idol, isn't bad either.

The direction isn't very inspiring, though. There were a number of edits where a scene would just stop and stumble into the next one, and while the film overall seems littered with good intentions it is clearly not the work of a master craftsman. Oto-na-ri riffs on the theme of sound without sight and in one of the films weaker scenes, involving one of the side characters in Aso's singular life, the theme is explicitly spelled out for us in case we didn't get it—a case where the director loses confidence in the old adage of "Show us, don't tell us".

All in all, while it's got a number of less than inspired elements, Oto-na-ri is a pleasant experience made worthwhile by Kumiko Aso's performance and an ending that will most likely prompt you to groan out loud or applaud it's effort. I liked it.

Summary: Oto-na-ri stars Junichi Okada as a photographer named Satoshi who prefers landscape photography to his daily grind of snapping photos of magazine models. Kumiko Aso plays a part-time florist named Nanao who lives in an adjacent apartment and dreams of someday moving to France. Though the two have never met, they do share a wall and occasionally inadvertantly eavesdrop on the daily goings-on of each other’s lives.

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