When does youth end and adulthood begin? After watching dozens of seishun eiga (“youth films”) in which high school kids give up a beloved sport or activity to cram for college entrance exams, I have come to think that, for many in Japan, youth in the free and footloose sense comes to a shuddering halt at age 16.

In Atsuro Shimoyashiro’s “The Modern Lovers,” however, the 30-year-old salaryman Tatsuo (Ryu Morioka) is still clinging to his youth — or rather his illusion of it. Bored with his job and marriage, and stuck in the backwoods of Gunma Prefecture, he plots a temporary escape to Tokyo where once upon a time he wrote scripts, made films and found love. He hopes to recapture some of that lost glory and passion, while knowing he can’t ditch his present existence entirely.

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