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Relife - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2017

Romance, Drama

Takeshi Furusawa

Taishi Nakagawa
Yuna Taira
Mahiro Takasugi
Elaiza Ikeda
Yudai Chiba
Sae Okazaki

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Relife - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Arata Kaizaki (Taishi Nakagawa) is 27 years old and has just lost his job. He hasn't come a long way. Suddenly, he is approached by a stranger who introduces himself as Yoake (Yudai Chiba), offering him to participate in an experiment. Kaizaki would have to take a pill and could return to his final year in high school. Kaizaki is very sceptical. However, when he hears that during this time his accommodation and provisioning is taken care of he accepts. The next day he in fact finds himself to be a lot younger and attends his final year in school. There, he meets the girl Hishiro (Yuna Taira) who has little interest in her surroundings, but wants to change herself and for this asks Kaizaki for help. He gives her a hand getting to know his new friends Oga (Mahiro Takasugi), Rena (Rena Kariu) and An (Sae Okazaki). At the same time Kaizaki has to face the fact that he starts to have feelings for the girl. Still, his feelings don't have a future since one rule of the experiment is that all individuals he gets to know during this one year will forget about him later. Yet, Kaizaki tries to enjoy his new life and by doing so also learns a lot for his future.

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Review: Sometimes I approach a movie so ingenuously that I can merely guess what film I have to expect by looking at the poster. Probably a rom-com it seemed. And that's not that wrong, after all. But "ReLIFE" is actually a picture about growing up, making memories and living in the moment. The movie in fact partly mananges to implement the different ideas profitably. Then again, there are also moments which are clearly aimed at a young audience, including slapstick moments captured in anime-style and a small dance number during the school festival. Eventually, everything points at this being a manga adaptation. Yes, I didn't even know that beforehand. Still, as the movie progresses you get a pretty clear picture about this. Not only because of the aforementioned scenes, but also because some parts of the plot seem to have been cut down.

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However, it needs to be pointed out right away that one of director Takeshi Furusawa's biggest accomplishments, who has already brought a manga to the big screen in the shape of "Clover", is that "ReLIFE" can be watched as a movie on its own without any prior knowledge. Yet, there are many different story threads the director follows. Sadly, the focus isn't always well chosen. For instance, we realize in the beginning that Kaizaki's life has been greatly influenced by one of his co-workers and accordingly, while attending school, there are every now and then a few flashbacks to his time as an office worker. But then this story arc gets sidelined for a while. You can't help but to assume that quite some material of the original has been cut out in order to put a clearer focus on the love story. This may be pretty apparent, but you can't really blame the director for choosing so.

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Still, there are a few scenes reminiscent of animes which are unneeded, particularly since they are mainly to be seen during the first third. That Hishiro's creepy smile is always underlaid with a sound is actually pretty fitting, but a few scenes, like that in which the camera spins around Kaizaki when everything just gets too much for him, simple feel superficial. Next to that some moments which aim at showing the wonderful life of teenagers in all their colorfulness are a bit annoying. A few scenes are supposed to look cute, too, but they are rather awkward. Then again, you can't be sure if it wasn't exactly the director's intention to show that awkwardness is a part of teenager life as well. Nevertheless, a few of those scenes, which are also captured in slow-motion, simply look as if they were supposed to create a cheap feeling of nostalgia.

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It's those scenes that drag on too much as well. This is also unnecessary since in other parts some assumed important stuff has been cut down on - and I can only assume so since I don't know the original, as already stated - and additionally, there is in fact room in "ReLIFE" to integrate some neat ideas and dialogues. In the end, those dialogues are constantly only one step short of really diving into the depths of a topic, though, merely touching the surface. The script isn't as smart as it wants us to believe either, but thankfully the truth about Hishiro's reclusiveness is not sold as a big twist, as we can see it miles in advance. Acting-wise Yuna Taira fits the role well, but in some of the more dramatic scenes she doesn't look that authentic. Taishi Nakagawa ("Your Lie in April") actually cuts a finer figure.

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The characters are for all intents and purposes quite interesting, even though as mentioned before they sometimes only get a raw deal. Mahiro Takasugi ("The World of Kanako") is the child-like buddy and Yudai Chiba plays the observer, whereas it's particularly his role that seems to be pushed more into the background. However, it has been a good decision not to try explaining the details behind the ReLIFE experiment. You either accept what the plot is trying to hook you with or you simply don't. In this regard the movie is pleasantly honest. Moreover, there is no exaggerated melodrama at the end, although the ending in fact manages to be touching. Here, "ReLIFE" turns out to be surprisingly mature and manages to bring across its message well. So you have probably realized that there are a few aspects you can't be content with, others, though, add to creating a well-achieved work about growing up and enjoying the here and now. Ultimately, "ReLIFE" deserves a recommendation for this.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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