Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Sweetest Truth 

スイーテスト・トゥルース   Sui-tesuto Turu-su   

Running Time: 58 mins.

Director: Evdoxia Kyropoulou

Writer: N/A

Starring: Emiko Nakai, Efstathia Tsapareli, Ryo Tsujikura, Giota Festa,

Sweetest Truth is writer/director Evdoxia Kyropoulou’s graduation work for the Kyoto University of Art and Design graduate school’s master’s course. She has written and directed short films and documentaries in Japan, the UK and Greece on young women coping with modern, urban reality and Sweetest Truth is her most ambitious film yet since it takes place in two countries.

There are two characters at the centre of the film. The first is Sissi Nakamura (Emiko Nakai), a young model living and working in Kyoto. She tries to balance a career entering overdrive and a relationship with her difficult boyfriend, Hideo (Ryo Tsujikura), who is also a model. He has a cold attitude to her and he has financial problems but she persists in loving him.

Meanwhile, in Athens, we see Katerina (Efstathia Tsapareli), a middle-aged woman who works as a cleaner. She is drifting far away from her youthful ambitions. She lives a suffocating existence with her selfish and overbearing mother Athanasia (Giota Festa) in a small apartment. The internet is her only escape and it is how she briefly makes contact with Sissi.

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Kyropoulou’s script effectively balances two narratives in distinctly different locations with characters who go on similar journeys.

Despite living different lives on different sides of the planet, there is little dichotomy between the protagonists. Their problems are common to many young women. They live in circumstances that almost choke them both mentally and physically – Sissi lives a rigid life for her modelling work and emotionally cold boyfriend but has no one to turn to when she needs help with a medical scare, Katerina feels duty-bound to look after her infirm mother who is constantly argumentative and causing mental anguish. Society’s demands can be overwhelming – they need to earn money, people on and off social media are judgemental, the constant pressure and the absence of love they both feel hurts them. Despite living in beautiful cities and comfortable apartments, these are not compensation for the psychic pain that these two women share and the incredibly important desire they feel: to find a way love themselves.

Their stories progress at the same time and almost mirror each other and the lead actors do a good job of slowly caving into the despair they feel, Katerina’s combative facade warping into anger from her frustration while Sissi’s smiles give way to mournful looks and a deluge of tears at her most stressed.

Their dramatic foils are also good. Giota Festa’s performance as the mother is suitably overwhelming in the cramped set but she, too, radiates a certain level of despair as a parent worried about her child. Ryo Tsujikura’s performance as Hideo as a man who has just fallen out of love and is himself lost is interesting to watch, just the right side of disengaged.

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Where the film falls down is that there is not enough exploration of the emotions each character has so it comes off as slightly flimsy rather than a full-throated investigation and too many subjects are broached. Indeed, Sissi’s medical emergency deserves a film of its own and there is no explanation as to why she finds the woods she runs through menacing despite so much being made of it. There is the issue of the symbolism being overdone. Both the moment when Sissi takes a red felt-tip pen to a poster of a woman and scribbles over the breasts and Katerina’s puzzle breaking apart are heavy-handed. This is a minor quibble since this is a student work and what has been captured is solid. Kyropoulou’s editing perfectly bounces between the two stories to maintain a steady rhythm and reinforce connections between characters, inter-cutting between sequences and even using match-cutting to make links between Sissi and Katerina.

Kyropoulou choices in location and cinematographer Ippei Nakamura’s work do a good job of differentiating the two locales of Athens and Kyoto with light and surroundings. The former is bright Mediterranean with blindingly white buildings and azure blue skies located near equally blue seas that highlight the scorching heat. The sense of a city trapped in the past and stifling its young can be felt and is reinforced by the fact that Katerina is the youngest person to be seen in much of her story. This is contrasted with the muted light of Kyoto’s downtown and more urban areas with the hills that surround the city acting as a backdrop. The humid atmosphere is highlighted by Sissi’s trips to the woods and the endless cries of the cicadas.

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Kyropoulou has made an engaging feature with just a small crew, three staff-members in Athens working with local university students and her fellow students on the course in Kyoto. It fulfils its brief as a look at the pressures of life faced by some young women. Too much may be bitten off story-wise but it still works and the audience will sympathise with the characters.

The film hints that they overcome their mental and physical stumbling blocks to achieve some sort of self-actualisation but everything is left open. There are no easy answers just like in real life but you get the sense that they are travelling again and travel means experience. Experience means growth. Growth means becoming stronger and being able to recognise new potential and achieve fulfilment.

Evdoxia has Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, Evdoxia studied Film at the School of Film Studies in Aristotle University. She also holds a Master’s degree in Filmmaking from Goldsmiths, University of London and a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Film from Kyoto University of Art and Design.

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