Japanese films about socially isolated teenagers are hardly rare, though truly original takes on the subject are uncommon. In his debut feature, however, Asato Watanabe has hit on one: Instead of being a wacky coming-of-age comedy or a weighty drama, “A Dobugawa Dream” seems to unfold in a dreamscape, where the border between reality and fantasy, the dead and the living, becomes permeable.

Scripted by Watanabe and shot on a near-zero budget, the film veers between the strenuously antic and the turgidly bleak, but a vitality and sympathetic vision power it through to its cathartic conclusion. Watanabe has said the film is based on his own experiences, and the film does have the feeling of a personal testament, though I hope its director didn’t live out all of his protagonist’s turmoil.

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