Ensemble dramas about the ups and downs of love, and its various substitutes, are popular now — at least with indie filmmakers. (A contrast to Japan's commercial romantic dramas, which still focus on star-crossed couples, one of whom is usually dead by the closing credits.)

A recent example of this popularity is Hitoshi One's high-energy, close-to-farcical "Koi no Uzu (Be My Baby)," whose central characters are drifting along society's margins. Another is Daisuke Miura's similarly titled "Ai no Uzu (Love's Whirlpool)," which follows a sex party of strangers from its awkward beginning to a bittersweet end. (Miura also scripted the former, quite different-in-tone film.)

Then there is Rikiya Imaizumi's enigmatically titled "Sad Tea," which had its premiere in 2013 at the Japanese Cinema Splash section of the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival, and which takes an approach somewhere in the middle. Despite its light comic feel, it is not trying for sitcom-style laughs. At the same time, it addresses a real-life question with no easy answers — especially for its perplexed principals: What does it mean to properly love someone?