Coming-of-age movies are always popular because their target audience knows the agonies of adolescence firsthand. You may feel superior to the klutzy protagonists, but you can relate. If getting through the movie itself is agony, though, you may feel more like escaping.
“Around the Table,” Soushi Matsumoto’s coming-of-age film, is not excruciating, but it is oddly weightless, with equal attention given to the problems of the wishy-washy protagonist and the lovingly photographed meals the characters consume with delight.
The film was backed by Hokuoh Kurashi no Doguten, a popular Japanese website marketing North European-style lifestyle goods that plentifully decorate the house where the protagonist spends her summer break and the restaurant her celebrity mother runs. Likewise, the art school where she takes a college prep course could feature in a glossy magazine piece about stylishly retro corners of Tokyo, and her nervous maiden plunge into the adult world is a party held by a trendy design firm. So the film is a kind of wish fulfillment for those whose idea of professional heaven-on-earth is to work for Hokuoh Kurashi no Doguten (Translation: Northern Europe Lifestyle Tools), or somewhere similar.