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100 Yen Love - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hyaku yen no Koi

Japan 2014

Genre:
Drama, Comedy, Romance

Director:
Masaharu Take

Cast:
Sakura Ando
Hirofumi Arai
Miyoko Inagawa
Saori Koide
Shohei Uno
Tadashi Sakata
Yozaburo Ito
Hiroki Okita
Osamu Shigematsu
Toshie Negishi


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100 Yen Love

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Ichiko (Sakura Ando) is 32 years old and still lives at home. She doesn't help her mother at her food stand and lazes around the whole day without having a perspective in life. However, it gets really bad when her sister moves in with her mother again after a failed marriage. After a few scuffles Ichiko has to move out. She decides to work at a convenience store where one of her colleagues soon approaches her. But Ichiko is only interested in Kano (Hirofumi Arai), an amateur boxer, who she has already seen a few times in a near boxing studio. As it turns out he every now and then also comes to the convenience store Ichiko works at. The two go on a first date and something similar to a romantic relationship unfolds between the two. But Kano isn't the guy for a serious relationship. In order to blow off steam Ichiko decides to start boxing. At first, she is everything but talented, but she soon gets a lot better very fast. She finally has found something which she can put her whole energy into. Still, she won't have a real career because of her advanced age. Yet, she wants to win at least one fight...

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 2 100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 3
100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 4

Review: You shouldn't get deceived by the poster. "100 Yen Love" is not your typical art house flick. The drama revolving around a woman who hasn't found her place in society and tries to get her life together through sport also isn't your standard boxing film. What makes the movie so special is the unusual and at times wacky way elements of different genres, last but not least that of a comedy as well, are interwoven. So it's no real surprise that Japan's official entry for "Best Foreign Language Film" at the Academy Awards is this little movie, which manages with its oddball characters and profound story to emotionally involve while not coming across as cold as most other art house movies.

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 5

And this even though at first it doesn't look like we could ever have sympathy for Ichiko. She is just lazily hanging around at home, doesn't lend a helping hand to her parents and even smells all the way through the screen since she apparently had her last bath years ago. But we slowly get an idea what kind of pain Ichiko bears within. She may move around like a boy and her round, almost bent over posture gives her something extremely stiff, but even though she may pretend to be strong she is no emotional ice cube. There is a very significant scene when Ichiko is getting raped. After the crime she deals with the situation in a very pragmatic manner, doesn't feel ashamed of being a victim, as most other women normally tend to do, and reports the case to the police right away. Yet, this surely has left her with an emotional scar, too.

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 6

And this is also what's special about "100 Yen Love". We actually and constantly see only the scars left and not the actual pain. Just like with the raping which isn't emotionally dwelled on the other wounds aren't put into the spotlight either. In contrast to your usually incredibly cold and distant art house flick there are still emotional outbursts to be found here as well. Director Masaharu Take ("Café Seoul") takes the best elements from scenes in which two individuals silently stand in front of each other so that you have to make out their emotions below the surface and such in which we get to see their emotions taking form. That way Masaharu Take manages to avoid clichés and give his drama a strong fundament which he afterwards uses as a playground for additional elements like the dead-pan humor or the somehow exhilarating, joyful blues soundtrack.

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 7

However, the movie owes a lot of its success to Sakura Ando ("For Love's Sake", "Love Exposure"). She doesn't fear showing her ugly side and her transformation - no, not into a beauty, but into a boxer - is simply amazing. To see her do great swings and hooks while jumping around like a bundle of energy becomes even the more impressive since we see her as an extreme slacker in the beginning with a few pounds too much. With her acting Sakura Ando also convinces easily. Next to her there is Hirofumi Arai ("Parasyte: Part 2"), whose character always remains somewhat mysterious with his subtle performance, but who makes the unusual love story another element to work out in the movie.

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 8 100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 9

100 Yen Love - Film Screenshot 10

Then, there is also the boxing. Despite a well done fight at the end in which a lot of emphasis is put on authenticity boxing just is a means to an end. Somehow it's not that important whether Ichiko wins or not, even though winning seems to come first for her in order to give her life some meaning after all. It's that heartwarming feeling when Ichiko just like a boxing professional and reminiscent of "Rocky" runs through the city for her training which leaves no doubt that the journey is the reward. She just has to realize this herself. It's this warmth that makes "100 Yen Love" such an outstanding and successful art house movie. Moreover, the director manages to transform his initial unfocusedness, the only real downside, into a narrative thread from the second half onwards. The humor, the love story, the sport, the tough journey of finding your place in society, all of this is interwoven exceptionally well and makes "100 Yen Love" a fantastic movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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