Daigo Matsui’s Just Remembering features two characters who love Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth. At least, they love the first section and, specifically, Winona Ryder’s cab driver who wants to be a mechanic and not a movie star. It also features Masatoshi Nagase, who starred in Jarmusch’s Mystery Train and has a prominent cameo in Paterson. But Just Remembering is not a Jarmusch-style movie. It’s a light romantic drama with a structural twist that places just enough emphasis on character and mood that you can see how it might be a film by someone who enjoys Jim Jarmusch’s movies, but himself has a much poppier sensibility than Jarmusch’s punky form of artistry. That said, as light romantic dramas go, it’s a pretty good one.
The film follows Teruo (Sosuke Ikematsu), a dancer turned stage lighting operator, across several of his birthdays, in particular tracing the course of his relationship with Yo (Sairi Ito), a cab driver who just wants to be a cab driver. The twist is that the birthdays come in reverse chronological order, from the present back to 2015 or so. Almost all the action takes place on these July 26s, and we see Teruo rise and fall based on small actions in his morning routine (feeding his cat too much — the cat shrinks as time goes backwards) and forgetting to pray at the statue he walks by on his way to work when things are bad; stretching to light music in his immaculately clean apartment when things are good. Some people he barely remembers in the future we see him meet, or merely pass by in the past. One recurring figure is Nagase, who waits every morning of every July 26 for his wife. What starts as tragedy turns to joy as time moves backward.
Both actors are quite good: Ikematsu has a quiet melancholy backed by the minimalist grace of a dancer, while Ito has an incredible smoker’s voice and a seriousness in her eyes that undermines the quirky stereotype her character could have been in a more generic film. The opening scenes are Covid-specific: we see the leads in their masks, checking temperatures before entering rooms. Two and a half years in, this image is still unnerving — even more so when we jump back to less disease-ridden times. What serves as the inciting incident of the series of flashbacks is a glimpse Yo has of Teruo in the present. This sends us on our journey through the past, seeing them apart and moving on, then breaking up, then together and happily planning for the future, beginning their relationship and then meeting cute. It all seems inevitable, two people meant for each other in the purest movie romance sense. Everything seems inevitable when you look at it backward. But that’s not how time really moves.
Published as part of Fantasia Fest 2022 — Dispatch 3.