Terrarium Locker テラリウムロッカー (2019) Dir: Rika Aoi

Terrarium Locker    Terrarium Locker Film Poster

テラリウムロッカー  Terariumu Rokka-

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Rika Aoi

Writer: Rika Aoi (Screenplay),

Starring: Kanako Miyashita, Osuke Tokunaga, Takashi Okado, Anju Oda,

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Rika Aoi’s Terrarium Locker was first picked up for the Kanazawa Film Festival 2019 before it was re-edited for the MOOSIC LAB 2019 programme. She made it while also working as a manga editor and did so with a main staff made up of women in their 20s (source). The film is a quiet and quirky small-scale human drama about a young woman finding her place in the world.Terrarium Locker Film Image

“Is there anything in this world that only I can do?”

This is the question Momo Okamoto (Kanako Miyashita) often asks herself. She is an earnest and timid 26-year-old office lady working in a third-rate trading company. Her working day unfolds like this:

  • Arrive early and set everything up,
  • Make photocopies,
  • Try to be as anonymous as possible when others are there,
  • Close up shop once people are gone.

This is delivered to us via a montage of her rather mechanical actions which is accompanied by her narration which explains how her behaviour is a defence mechanism.

It’s all false masks and inauthenticity for Momo. On the surface she is bland because that helps her avoid the judgement of others and also the sexual predations of office lothario Segawa (Takashi Okado) but she has a secret pleasure: maintaining a terrarium in her locker. She secretly persists in growing its plant away from the eyes of others instead of on her desk because, while she loves to see it due to the healing effect it has on her heart, she is afraid of what others will say. At times, she states that she regards it as her true self, thus making explicit how the terrarium stands as a metaphor for her in her own sealed world at the office. And so she continues her lonely and bland life.

Things change when, while eating a lonely lunch, she meets a mysterious gardener (Osuke Tokunaga) with a strange aura and a strong belief in how to cultivate something beautiful. His advice on growing plants encourages Momo. Specifically, it is that a living thing needs to be out in the open to see the sunlight to fully grow and so the metaphor and the subject find perfect synergy as this inspires Momo to make a change in her own behaviour which has an impact on the world around her. Momo who, through adopting a false mask and avoiding authentic behaviour, existed in her own little sealed little world, now decides to break out of it with behaviour that is genuine to her.

It’s a simple drama with Momo’s paradoxical desire to not stand out but also do something unique acting as the drive for change and it is easy to relate to her desire since it is something we all feel. Also easy to relate to is her adopting such a bland persona to make the workplace bearable by reducing conflict and it is shown with the simple set up and the convincing behaviour of the cast which is given to us through clean and concise direction and editing. Her dealings with Segawa, the co-worker who won’t take no for an answer, heads to places that might feel somewhat contrived but the sense of having others dominate Momo does provide tension needed for conflict. Ultimately it is easy relate to Momo as a character, especially her reluctance to reveal something important to co-workers, and so seeing her break out of her shell and show her true self was really gratifying and an important lesson to be brave and try to shine rather than hide or let others define you.

2 thoughts on “Terrarium Locker テラリウムロッカー (2019) Dir: Rika Aoi

  1. It looks interesting. Thanks for the review. A very short film. I checked on Amazon Japan and there’s nothing there… except the soundtrack.^^ I hope this short movie will be soon avaible somewhere.

    1. It was streamed legally for free as part of the Japan Film Festival Online. It happened twice last year and both programmes were MOOSIC Lab films from the last five years.

      There’s an online festival from the organisers now that is being streamed in various regions of the world but these are a wider variety of films like big-budget mainstream titles and small indie anime.

      Alas, it’s not available in Japan…

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