Running Time: 20 mins.
Release Date: 2012
Director: Junichi Kanai
Writer: Junichi Kanai (Screenplay),
Starring: Aoi Morikawa, Riko Masuda, Tomoki Fujiwara,
Junichi Kanai’s short film, “Transferring” was the winner of the Sonje Award at the 2012 Pusan International Film Festival and Best Picture at the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival 2013. This is a touching and amusing comedy about two outsiders making a connection.
Yoko (Aoi Morikawa) is a spirited junior high school girl who, when the film opens, has just been cast in the lead female role in her class’ adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet”. She’d rather be director or in charge of lighting, who the hell are her classmates to vote for her to take the female lead? Her defiance earns her the ire of the rest of the class who give her the silent treatment. Absolutely nobody talks to Yoko and she endures it. Things might change when a new transfer student appears. Lisa Sayama stands in front of the class to introduce herself and says, “I don’t think I’ll have friends here. Thank you for listening.”
Intrigued, and with nobody else who will speak to her, Yoko tries to connect with the new student.
Shot in a real school with real students, the verbal exchanges between Yoko, played by Aoi Morikawa as a somewhat headstrong girl, and her teacher an amiable guy who is a bit goofy, works well in establishing characters and a gentle comedic tone with an underlying sharp edge that show how social links are forged or frozen. In one sequence the camera pans around to cover the entire classroom and it is alive with activity as all the kids are doing something but Yoko’s humour and cheekiness causes her to get a literal take on silent treatment when the girl, who is as sharp as a pin and a joy to listen to, goes too far in revealing what she thinks. The rowdy class becomes quiet whenever she enters. This helps provide a base for the relationship between Yoko and Lisa to develop as Yoko uses cheeky humour to break down barriers Lisa throws up.
Indeed, the barriers are many as Lisa resists and in scenes when Yoko is trying to get closer to Lisa, director Junichi Kanai creates a weird and desolate atmosphere through the soundtrack. Yoko trails after her down streets while the sound of a cruel wind whipping leaves into the air can be heard, perhaps suggests Lisa’s inner-self as she has no friends and seem to give off a barren personality. “Don’t follow me,” is what she says to Yoko with utter seriousness before slamming the front gate of her house in Yoko’s face. Yoko returns that order but as a joke and soon it becomes a phrase the two throw at each other for fun. In a neat bit of symbolism, Lisa scales the same front gate, after finally giving in.
Yoko, acting like a clown, overcomes this desolation with constant smiles and laughter. Her persistence breaks down barriers. Persistence and castella cake. They go from being isolated to hanging out together. A long shot of the two chatting away in the classroom is hopeful in its implications and the viewer will want to keep seeing hopeful smiles on their faces.
The thing that makes this work is the performances of the girls who are very naturalistic – spiky and not overly cute, opinionated and brave but still displaying some vulnerability. The ending becomes packed full of emotion as the bittersweet tale of friendship between two lonely girls ends on a beautiful note and the hope that someone will always be there following us.