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Original Title:
Zenzen daijobu

Japan 2008

Comedy, Drama

Yosuke Fujita

YoshiYoshi Arakawa
Yoshinori Okada
Yoshino Kimura
Seminosuke Murasugi
Naoki Tanaka
Ichiro Ogura
Toshie Negishi
Kayoko Shiraishi
Keizo Kanie

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Fine, Totally Fine

Story: Teruo (YoshiYoshi Arakawa) is almost thirty years old and still living at his father's place. He dreams of opening a haunted house one day and frighten people nearly to death. Everything that has got to do with horror he is fascinated by. However, he is still far-off from realizing his dream. He works part-time at his father's second hand book store and as a maintenance worker for the city park. His best friend is Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), who works as an administrator in a hospital. Hisanobu wants to be liked by everyone, which is why he is always friendly and never says no. For this reason he also hires the girl Akari (Yoshino Kimura), even though she made everything but a good first impression during her job interview. The following days Akari proves to be incredibly clumsy and her lack of self-confidence does its share for her to quit, eventually. Hisanobu wants to help her, though, and arranges for her to get a job at the shop of Teruo's father. The weird girl doesn't only arouse the interest of Hisanobu, but also of Teruo who head over heels falls in love with her. Still, Akari only has eyes for someone else.

Review: "Fine, Totally Fine" is an independent movie and therefore extremely unusual in its nature as it doesn't stick to any certain genre. The wacky humour, which is presented with a certain kind of dryness, or realism I should say, makes out the special charm of the film. But even if no other critic has pointed this out, yet (at least as far as I know), there is also an undeniable sweet melancholy running trough the movie, which can touch you in a very unique way. Nonetheless, "Fine, Totally Fine" mainly seems to aim at creating a warm, fuzzy feeling within the viewer. The film deals about outcasts, resp. individuals that are searching for their place in society, or have already become aware that there is no such thing for them. There is a lot to be read between the lines and that's also what could have turned this movie into a drama, if it weren't for the exceptional humour.

Teruo stands in the movie's focus, at least in the beginning, and is responsible for most laughs. His love for horror movies has given him the ideas to quite some pranks, of which some are almost brilliant. He also doesn't get tired of scaring the hell out of his friends and oftentimes even the viewer jumps off his seat only to laugh about the whole situation afterwards. The various toys and monster figures with Teruo's head of which the one from the movie "The Thing" sticks out the most, show once more with what love of detail the filmmakers approached their work at some points.
A side plot deals with Teruo's father, who suffers from something like a burnout syndrom and that even though he does nothing more than just star holes into space at his book store. But maybe just because of this reason he then decides to make a little trip showing his children that their father has some talents they didn't know of.

Later on the focus of the story shifts more to Hisanobu, a man, who wants to do everything right for everyone and would like to be loved by everyone. Even his superior can't overlook the fact, that Hisanobu simply wants to play "Mr. Nice Guy". Hisanobu himself first has to become aware of that. Somehow he seems to be lost, too, and only after meeting the girl Akari, he starts to realize what he might have been missing in his life.
Akari is the oddest character of the three protagonists. She spies on a homeless, because she is fascinated by her sculptures made of garbage. Moreover, she is an artist herself, although she is keeping this a secret. Her various drawings are considered bad by herself, of course, until one day and via several coincidences, yet not to forget Hisanobu's help, someone turns up who would like to buy one of her drawings. Towards this buyer she also starts to build up a romantic relationship, which evolves in a completely unforced manner.

However, Teruo and Hisanobu have already fallen in love with Akari. Yet, those who expect a corny love triangle need not to be worried, because nothing in "Fine, Totally Fine" is ordinary in whatever way, let alone corny. Everything unfolds in a natural way and the animosity between Teruo and Hisanobu are dealt with in a film within the film, which one of Teruo's friends is shooting.
Eventually, there are pieces of the different person's lives presented to us, and yet the movie also manages to offer a certain amount of continuity. Sometimes the film might feel a bit surreal, especially concerning the dryness with which certain jokes are served, but if you can get along with the calm pacing of the movie, you will dive into the film in no time, most of all thanks to the three main actors. "Fine, Totally Fine" is a movie you will understand with your heart.

The pictures stand out with at times colorful shots, and during the outdoor shots with a sunny presentation. The quiet acoustic guitar soundtrack also adds to the feeling that you are spending your time relaxing at a warm, cosy summer's day. "Fine, Totally Fine" creates emotions in a natural and unobtrusive way, at the same time also manages to make us laugh with some off-beat jokes. It's possible that not everyone will be able to get along with the slow pacing or understand that the actual fascinating thing about the movie is to be found between the lines, but even in that case you will find yourself sitting in front of your TV with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach when the credits roll. An extraordinary film, which hasn't been highly praised on several film festivals without a reason, even though I have to point out that some critics also have been too enthusiastic with their laudation. "Fine, Totally Fine" is simply a fine movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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