Crying Out Love at the Centre of the World Review
Director: Isao Yukisada
Starring: Takao Osawa, Masami Nagasawa, Mirai Moriyama, Shibasaki Kou, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Arriving home from work after a long overnight shift, Sakutaro (Takao Osawa) finds a note from his fiancee Ritsuko (Shibasaki Kou) telling him that she needed to go somewhere and do something before their wedding. With an impending typhoon about to strike Japan, Sakutaro sees a news report where Ritsuko is in the background at their hometown. Going to find her he begins to reminisce about his high school days and in particular, his first love Aki Hirose (Masami Nagasawa) who died in high school. Finding old cassette tapes at his childhood home of their correspondence in 1986, he begins to remember the places and events of his youth as he listens to the tapes while walking around town.
Taking place over two time periods, 1986 and the present, we get to experience a bit of a coming of age story, wrapped in an idyllic and absolutely cute romance. Nagasawa is absolutely captivating as Aki; her disposition both before and after the diagnosis of her illness is bright and sunny and I would fathom that many young men became instantly enamoured of Aki and Nagasawa by extension. The young Sakutaro, played by Mirai Moriyama, is a bit standoffish at the beginning of their relationship, unsure of why such a popular girl is interested in an average guy like him, but he warms quickly when he discovers her affections are real. The mistakes that he makes can be easily forgiven as he acts with his heart in a truthful and honest way. His growth as a person, and the creeping inevitability of Aki’s death, is the main dramatic thread through the final act of the film.
Shibasaki Kou gives a solid supporting role as Ritsuko, the wayward fiancee, but despite her beauty and improved acting, there isn’t really much for her to do until the finale. Tsutomu Yamazaki is terrific as an oddly funny and deeply romantic photographer that young Aki and Sakutaro make friends with, and honestly he has settled into his elder statesman role in Japanese cinema quite nicely.
Director Isao Yukisada crafts a gentle and moving picture filled with postcard photography and a longing for days gone by. While the popularity of the film lies heavily with the immensely likable portrayals of the actors and actresses, Yukisada’s ability to draw such real emotion is the real winner in this film. While he has continued to direct regularly up to today, with generally good results, he has never been able to recapture that magic that changed the Japanese cinemascape quite like Crying Out Love…
Absolutely a cultural touchstone, this film, and the book on which it was based, touched off a boom of renai, or pure love, cinema and media that to this day has not abated. It’s a touching and oddly nostalgic story that brings to mind the almost fairytale like notion of romance but with an air of reality and the unfairness of life. Deeply affecting and filled with absolutely terrific performances, Crying Out Love at the Centre of the World is a film that you won’t be likely to forget.