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Kakera: A Piece of Our Life - Review

Kakera: A Piece of Our Life

Review by Michael Edwards

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SOMETIMES it’s hard to work out whether an arthouse film is good or not: Kakera is one of those films.

In some ways it could easily be said that if you’re not sure then it’s probably not doing what it’s supposed to. But this strange love story about a bisexual woman who makes prosthetic limbs and a drifter of a student she encounters seems to be doing several things at once, and then succeeding at something entirely different. Confused? You should be.

Loosely adapted from a cult manga story, Kakera is an ambitious debut feature from Momoko Ando. The love story it tells is still a controversial one, especially in Japan, and the characters it plays with are complex to the extreme.

We are first introduced to Haru as she undergoes the usual routine of her mornings. Her brutish boyfriend shoots at some noisy pigeons with a pellet gun before they both rise, and she dresses (badly) as he noisily slurps down breakfast. She then walks behind him like a dog as they head to the train station, and they bid farewell.

From here, Haru drifts into a cafe, where she is confronted by an over-affectionate customer, Riko, who passes on her number. For once, Haru decides to act and gets in touch with Riko and the two soon embark on an affair.

Haru welcomes the affection that was so lacking in her last realtionship, and Riko is enamoured with the beauty and candour of Haru. But, as ever, the course of true love does not run smooth.

This is director Momoko Ando’s first feature, and she doesn’t tread lightly. Each scene is layered with symbolism, from heavy-handed menstruation scenes to a bizarre moment where a bottle of fizzy pop turns into a dove. These unnecessarily artsy moments serve more to jar than to symbolise or signpost the key themes and narrative shifts.

Such moments are all the more jarring as Ando largely adopts a realistic style of cinematography, even to the extent of seeming over-restrained in the context of such hyper-emotional material. Yet somehow it is this decision to go with the recognisable and the honest that saves the film.

Once Ando is done signposting the key points of her characters and their story, we proceed down the rocky road of the relationship and the characters really come into their own.

Lead actresses Hikari Mitsushima and Eriko Nakamura work wonderfully together when they are no longer required to shout their foibles from the rooftops, and the nuances of the relationship difficulties that follow their odd beginnings are brutally realistic and finally endear us to these people and their problems.

Those of you interested in an unusual love story with some cryptic visual challenges and quirky characters will doubtless find plenty to have fun with here, but the more discerning cinephile will doubtless take issue with a number of inconsistencies and unnecessary embellishments.

Read an interview with the director

In Japanese with English subtitles

Certificate: tbc
Running time: 107 mins
UK Release Date: April 2, 2010