Story: Satoko (Chizuru Ikewaki) works as a receptionist for an escort service and is looking for her true love in life. When she one day
finds an oddly shaped stone she prays in front of it and God seems to listen to her prayers. Though not the way she imagined. Moreover, she is somehow
connected to a woman who works at the escort service, Akiyo (Yuko Nakamura). Akiyo sells her body, because she doesn't have any goal in life. She actually
would be happy with a good friend of hers, whom she secretly loves for a very long time already, but he apparently isn't interested in her.
Chihiro (Noriko Nakagoshi) works at an office and has to deal with lowbrow tasks. But she isn't as unhappy about that as she is about her disappointing love life. She may have a boyfriend at last, but the relationship isn't heading into the direction she had in mind. Chihiro shares an apartment with the artist Toko (Kiriko Nananan), who apparently has everything you could ask for in life, but Toko is also troubled by something that even makes her suffer from bulimia. Although they don't know, the four women are suffering from the same loneliness.
Review: "Strawberry Shortcakes" is a drama that showcases a kind of maturity which is captivating at all times and often unsettling as well.
Yet, there is always something life-affirming shining through which is enthralling and makes the story around four young women, who have to struggle with love
and loneliness in the big city, very special. Particularly well achieved is the way the stories of the four women are told parallely as the individual weight
of the stories is perfectly balanced. Moreover, none of the stories are just fill-ins since every individual is drawn with a keen eye for detail. That you
have to show some patience with this kind of movie should be self-evident. But you soon get accustomed to the pacing of this drama and are able to
immerse yourself into the story.
The four women the movie's focus lies on couldn't be any more different. However, two of them always share something in their lives, be it the workplace or
an apartment. Apart from that they live their own lives, though. The four women need some time to realize that the hardships of life can only be dealt with and
somehow overcome with a shoulder to lean on. That this shoulder could be the one of a woman or friend right next to them isn't something they are aware of
in their blindness of searching for their true love in life. But to find true love seems almost impossible for a woman in the big city. Fortunately, men haven't
been depicted as merely heartless or sex-addicted monsters as at least Akiyo's friend from schooldays is proof of. But that doesn't mean that you could
expect a happy ending at least with this story since this friend has a girlfriend after all.
The film's title is thus misleading, because we don't get a cheerful romance here. Instead the viewer gets a taste of the same loneliness that accompanies
the four women in life. With a story that so strongly is carried by the characters, there is of course a strong need of good actresses and they certainly
have been found. Chizuru Ikewaki ("Oishii Man") plays the role of the girl that choses a stone as God and her last ray
of hope on her search for true love very convincingly and Noriko Nakagoshi ("Lesson of the Evil") plays the
supposedly rather shallow woman, who yet features the same kind of complexity as probably most women. The two protagonists serve us as reference points
when it comes to the other two women.
Akiyo, embodied by Yuko Nakamura ("Blood and Bones"), is a bit more difficult to grasp. She sells her body and even does so without using condoms. Furthermore, she sleeps in a coffin. The only things she yearns for is her best friend, but she knows that this will just remain an unfulfilled dream of hers. At least as difficult to pinpoint is the artist Toko who is suffering from bulimia, played by Kiriko Nananan herself, the woman whose manga the movie is based on. She presumably delivers the most impressive performance with her debut. Akiyo and Toko remain the most mysterious individuals in the movie and thus also the most interesting. The many insinuations are the source to derive more information from about the characters and that is the movie's main appeal. The feeling of longing and loneliness intensifies as it becomes some sort of death wish of the characters, which is hard to bear.
Next to all the pain there are also a few moments of sunshine. The drama isn't overdrawn to a blurry mass, instead "Strawberry Shorcakes" shines with a closeness to reality that is seldomly witnessed in this kind of film. This realistic approach doesn't lead to the individuals being to cold in nature, though. The drama surprises with a positive undertone, which considerung all the pain and lonileness should actually feel out of place. But it doesn't. The ending may leave things open for some and many aspects are just hinted at in the story. Contrary to similar works this doesn't lead to frustration, however, since a little bit of reflection will tell you that actually everything that had to be said, is in fact said. A subtle and realistic drama, whose realism is then again the reason why it missed a better rating by an inch. If that doesn't make sense to you, fell free to add an extra point.