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By winning audience awards for her whimsical, heartwarming rom-coms “Tremble All You Want” and “Hold Me Back” at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2017 and 2020, respectively, Akiko Ohku has proven her ability to connect with ticket buyers (and this reviewer). The second win was especially impressive since it was for the only prize awarded in the festival’s 32-film Tokyo Premiere 2020 section this year.

Based on a novel by Risa Wataya and scripted by Ohku, “Hold Me Back” has much in common with the director’s breakout hit, “Tremble All You Want.” Both feature single protagonists who are on the gauche and quirky side, played by actors — Mayu Matsuoka in the former film and the single-named Non in the latter — who exude natural charm and offbeat comedic talent.

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