Charting the emotional whiplash experienced by a young girl as she develops a crush on a classmate who subsequently gets together with her high school rival, Yoko Yamanaka’s Amiko depicts wild vacillations between happiness and loneliness. But the director’s aesthetic is tired at this point, placing the character slightly out of frame or capturing her on the fly in YouTube or personal vlog-style videos — lacing a contemporary melodrama with references to social media. There’s even a quick interlude on a subway platform that turns into an impromptu musical number, another cliched quirk.
Amiko feels tedious even at 65 minutes, winding up to a completely anticipated self-actualization that simply doesn’t feel earned because the rest of the film is so perfunctory. There’s confidence here to spare; Yamanaka was only 19 years old when she made this, and the tight running time and engaging lead performance from Aira Sunohara suggest a young talent firmly in control of their voice. But there’s simply nothing new or insightful here; Sunohara is content to recreate an emotional state mined by dozens of others who came before her.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2018.