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My Pretend Girlfriend - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Momose, Kotchi wo Muite

Japan 2014

Romance, Drama

Saiji Yakumo

Takeuchi Taro
Akari Hayami
Asuka Kudo
Anna Ishibashi
Osamu Mukai

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My Pretend Girlfriend

My Pretend Girlfriend - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Noboru (Takeuchi Taro) is a shy boy who like all boys in his class is interested in the girl Kambayashi (Anna Ishibashi). But she is already the girlfriend of Shun (Asuka Kudo), an old friend of Noboru from his childhood days. Shun is very popular with girls and when word gets out that Noboru is a friend of him Noboru himself gets more attention than he likes, too. Then, Shun asks him for help. Rumor is spread that Shun is cheating on his girlfriend with Momose (Akari Hayami). In order to dispose of this rumor once and for all Noboru is supposed to pretend being a couple with Momose. Since Noboru owes his life to his friend he agrees. From that day on Noboru and Momose can be seen together at school at almost all times. However, outside of school Momose isn't really nice to her "boyfriend". Slowly her inner pain and suffering she carries around comes to the surface. Shun may secretly meet with her on several occasions, but he doesn't seem to have any real interest in her. Momose is quite aware that this is unrequited love, but she can't let go. At the same time Noboru and Momose get closer and closer as friends. But for Noboru there is more than just friendship, even though his feelings remain onesided, too...

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My Pretend Girlfriend - Film Screenshot 4

Review: It's always a bit risky to decide watching a romantic drama if you are actually not a fan of manipulative kitsch. Even lighthearted stories about first love at best manage to generate a few mild laughs. Fortunately, "My Pretend Girlfriend" approaches the subject of first love in a quite complex and even lyrical fashion, without wanting to come across as artificially profound in the art department. This is a rarity even from Japan and is even the more surprising since the film is based on a coming-of-age novel by Eiichi Nakata and thus apparently isn't targeting an adult audience. But the way the subject of love is dealt with here is extremely mature and the heartache is affecting in a completely natural manner, without creating a single scene that would be absolutely genre-typical and thus would destroy the film's credibility.

My Pretend Girlfriend - Film Screenshot 5

The color palette already gives us an impression what to expect from the movie. Basically, there are a lot of scenes that are characterized by a special kind of warmth. This also symbolizes the feeling of nostalgia which doesn't play a minor role in the movie, yet isn't implemented the way you would expect. Not everything is glorified to something great through rose-tinted glasses. Pain also has a place here and is conveyed through some rather bleakly captured scenes every now and then as well. A little bit reminiscent of Shunji Iwai's "Love Letter". At the same time you can also make out more realistic elements like from "Strawberry Shortcakes", without the feeling of loneliness being suffocating. In fact, the story is very pleasantly balanced between romanticization and a mature kind of realism.

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This also becomes apparent in the dialogue. Momose knows how ridiculous her behavior is and that her unrequited love is eating away at her. She even verbally expresses this at some points, but she still can't change the way she is. She remains helpless. She also asks Noboru if he can even understand her with all the seemingly incoherent blabbering of hers. When he says no she states that she hopes for him to do one day. Of course she can't know that from a certain point onwards he knows all too well what she means since he has fallen in love with Momose while she doesn't even notice - after all she is still occupied dealing with her pain. And so everyone remains more or less a victim of his/her own inner feelings. And Noboru can't understand that his kind-hearted friend Tanabe also would like to to know this monster called love which slowly tears you apart from the inside.

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Accordingly, the omnipresent theme is whether you can have pleasant memories of unrequited love or not. Or if instead of feelings like sadness and hatred you can have in fact a more mature feeling between those two extremes in the future. This question is tackled very well cinematically. Especially during the double date there are a few complex feelings evident beneath the surface. Moreover, the dialogue is very authentic, as if the experiences depicted were actually made. Along with the slightly lyrical depiction of love, without ever losing sight of the flip side/darker side of love, "My Pretend Girlfriend" tells a wonderfully honest love story that doesn't necessarily make you expect a happy ending. Because life seldomly has something like a happy ending in store for us. Especially when it comes to love.

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That the love story couldn't turn out to be outright shallow in the end should be obvious at the latest when Novalis and his Blue Flower as a symbol of yearning is picked up as a theme. "My Pretend Girlfriend" manages to feature some very strong scenes and Momose, who with her straightforward and sometimes egoistic nature is everything but likeable at first, has some particularly warm scenes with Noboru. And seeing her with her family is the moment you start to like her more than Kambayashi. Akari Hayami, former member of the J-Pop group Momoiro Clover, delivers quite a remarkable performance, even the more since she has to depict a complex personality which sadly remains a bit too enigmatic in the end. The ending might seem like an open one, but if you really understand the movie (with your heart) you will find that there are in fact no unanswered questions. A wonderfully lyrical and at the same time realistic movie about love.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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