Director: Ryohei Watanabe
Starring: Izumi Okamura, mimpi*β
Awkward and shy schoolgirl Misa (mimpi*β) is lonely and the subject of bullying in her high school. Quiet and reserved, she is surprised to find a friend in the cute and lively Izumi (Izumi Okamura) who, as it turns out, is also a victim of the same bullies and is friendless as well. Striking up a fast friendship, Misa is taken with the vivacious Izumi’s outlook on life and the warm comfort in a friend with which she can confide. As their friendship evolves into somewhat of an obsession, Izumi’s carefree and giving companionship may come with a price.
Director Ryohei Watanabe helms this deeply atmospheric and genre bending look at the dark side of female friendship. Starting off a somewhat a sweet and tender coming of age film, it delicately transitions into a much more ‘shady’ entity all together. A low budget production, Watanabe uses a minimalist approach with a number of long takes and the intelligent choice to hold shots, for both impact and discomfort. The addition of numerous red herrings adds to the tense atmosphere and surprising revelations that spring forth by the film’s end.
Musician mimpi*β plays the reserved Misa and delivers a solid, if somewhat contradictory performance. Her character’s motivations, that of desperation and friendship, blinds her until possibly the last final moment in such a way as to make her character seem obtuse. While her hunger for companionship is sympathetic, the hints and clues given throughout about Izumi’s true nature are telegraphed to such a degree that most avid cinemagoers know immediate what to look out for. Her Desperation of course is the reason for her blinders. Relative newcomer Izumi Okamura turns in a solid performance as the somewhat unhinged Izumi. Her transformation during the course of the film is gradual but the inklings of the darkness within her are evident from the beginning. She is cute and energetic but as the weight of her actions begin to compound, the severity of her true nature comes to the fore.
In the end, Shady is a gripping and unsettling look at juvenile friendship, young love, and the dangers of obsession. With its tight direction and thoroughly captivating leads, there is a whole lot to like about this film. Despite some minor gripes with the lack of surprises, Shady remains darkly chilling and hugely engaging and will make you think twice about giving someone your phone number.
Special Thanks to Tidepoint Pictures for providing access to a viewing copy!