Film / Reviews

‘My Name Is Yours’: The kids are not alright in this already dated drama

by James Hadfield

Contributing writer

The coronavirus pandemic has already taken a toll on Japan’s youth, but there’s no telling what it will do to the nation’s youth movies. The seishun eiga genre — that ageless depository of cliche — is going to have an interesting time responding to an era in which many of the traditional rites of adolescence have been put on hold.

In the meantime, there will be stragglers like Momoko Fukuda’s “My Name Is Yours,” which was shot last year but already feels like a historical artifact. Adapted from two of the director’s own novellas by screenwriter Kosuke Mukai, its parallel tales of teenage ennui may leave even younger viewers in a nostalgic mood.

High school student Yukari (Honoka Matsumoto), known to everyone as “En,” is at the top of her class, but she’d rather spend time hanging out with Kotoko (Seina Nakata), a tempestuous childhood pal who’s constantly clashing with teachers and sneaking off for cigarettes. While skipping class together, they encounter fellow student Narihira (Pei Omuro) having a quiet cry, and Kotoko falls immediately in love — too bad that he seems more interested in her bestie.

My Name Is Yours (Kimi Ga Sekai No Hajimari)
Rating
Run Time 115 min
Language Japanese
Opens July 31

Meanwhile, classmate Jun (Yuki Katayama) is having a rough time at home after her mother walks out, made worse by her father’s creepy insistence on acting as if nothing has changed. Killing time after school at the local shopping mall, she catches recent transfer student Io (Daichi Kaneko) in a far-from-innocent embrace with his stepmother and recognizes a kindred spirit. United by disaffection and a shared appreciation for 1980s punk band The Blue Hearts, the pair start conducting illicit trysts of their own.

These two stories jostle for attention, eventually connecting when the characters spend the night at the shuttered mall, in a sequence that echoes Shinji Somai’s “Typhoon Club” (1985).

It’s hard to watch all this without second-guessing how it might tie in with the ominous opening scene, in which an unidentified high school student is arrested after murdering their father. The characters’ dilemmas are lent pathos by the knowledge that they may be headed for a tragic outcome, only for the film to take an unexpected turn that comes both as a relief and a bit of a letdown.

Though it touches on patricide, incest and mental illness, “My Name Is Yours” eventually settles for the more comforting conventions of the genre: tentative kisses, bashful confessions and unrequited love. Maybe it’s a deliberate riposte to the exploitative tendency of some teen dramas, typified by Tetsuya Nakashima’s “Confessions” (2010) and “The World of Kanako” (2014), but Fukuda doesn’t really sell it.

The film as a whole is very style-conscious, yet still falls into the same technical pitfalls as far too many low-budget Japanese flicks, with haphazard sound and lighting.

Among the cast, Katayama is a standout as the prickly, troubled Jun. Matsumoto is as reliable as ever, though having played a grown woman in Fukuda’s “My Father, the Bride” last year, she already seems a little too mature to pass for a teenager.

There’s something old-fashioned about the whole thing, and not just because the characters barely look at their smartphones and bond over a song from 1987. “My Name Is Yours” may inadvertently mark the end of an era. When youth movies return, they’re going to have to find some different stories to tell.

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