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Sweet Little Lies- Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2010


Hitoshi Yazaki

Miki Nakatani
Nao Omori
Chizuru Ikewaki
Juichi Kobayashi
Yuko Oshima
Sakura Ando
Mei Kurokawa
Akiko Kazami

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Sweet Little Lies

Story: Ruriko (Miki Nakatani) and Satoshi (Nao Omori) are married for three years now. For people from the outside the two seem to be the perfect couple, but in truth there is no passion in their life anymore, only courtesy towards the partner. Ruriko is an artist and creates teddy bears while her husband works in an office and has no sense for her creative vein. At home the two live parallel lives and respect their privacy. Satoshi oftentimes locks himself up and plays video games in his room. Ruriko has her exhibitions. The couple's lives lack warmth. This warmth eventually enters Ruriko's life again when she meets the young man Haruo (Juichi Kobayashi) at her exhibition. Although Ruriko never would have thought to be the type she starts an affair as she gets from him what she lacks in life. Satoshi also initiates an affair in some way when he meets his former fellow student Shiho (Chizuru Ikewaki). Has the marriage of the couple still any future?

Review: Marriage can lead to loneliness. The partner can be in the same room and yet you feel alone. A subject that is shed light on in a well achieved subtle manner in "Sweet Little Lies". With an everything but oversentimental approach a marriage is depicted that as so many others has slowly fallen asleep and doesn't have any room for life anymore. The partners suffocate each other in boredom and loneliness without either one of the two being able to pinpoint the reason why. The inner fire and passion simply is gone, you could say in a trivializing manner, but in fact different layers of the characters are uncovered in a pleasantly honest and serene fashion, which breathes life into a movie that otherwise easily could have been counted among cold art house cinema and actually makes us care for the characters.

Sweet Little Lies - Film Screenshot 11

On paper "Sweet Little Lies" doesn't really deliver much. Husband and wife both commit adultery because there isn't left any passion in their marriage. But it's the small things that make the movie so special and interesting. For instance there is the strange chemistry between the two protagonists and also a few lines that reveal an unexpected profoundness. Moreover, the things that aren't said are pretty fascinating as well. Of course this means that you have to go into "Sweet Little Lies" with some patience, but it's worth the effort as the characters are really interesting while at the same time the reasons for the marriage's decay hold a peculiar appeal in respect to the viewer's curiosity. Naturally, the story's subtlety is in strong demand of good actors, but fortunately the drama doesn't have a weak spot here.

Sweet Little Lies - Film Screenshot 12

Miki Nakatani ("Memories of Matsuko", "Rikidozan") carries the wife with restrained passion which never bursts out and yet is always apparent. The husband is played by Nao Omori ("Ichi - The Killer", "Bugmaster") and seems to be somewhat of a bore at first, but even though he never becomes as multi-layered as his wife there is never any doubt that there is more behind his quiet, constantly withdrawn nature. When he hugs his wife following her plea this seems extremely awkward, since there still remains a physical gap between the two which they don't have with their respective lovers. The precise reasons for that never become apparent. Maybe the couple married too young, but most likely they have just grown apart. After all there is no animosity or hatred between the two.

It also isn't really necessary for us to know the exact reasons for their behavior. The two protagonists lack something in life, although they certainly are a family. Ruriko says "Maybe we miss those things that are really unnecessary" or something like that and reveals a lot with that or rather puts in doubt certain aspects of marriage. Next to its profoundness there also isn't any black-and-white characterization in this drama. Ruriko loves the man she has an affair with, but even if she tells the truth about that, which is to be assumed, as some interesting lines about truth and lies are good evidence of, you still wonder what she actually means with "love". Is it the warmth, particularly the physical warmth, that she lacks at home? Is this what triggers "love" in her? And what about Satoshi? If he also yearns for physical closeness why is there a problem in the marriage in the first place?

Sweet Little Lies - Film Screenshot 13

Of course the depicted marriage stands as a microcosm of Tokyo. You live cramped in one place but you don't know each other and are plagued by loneliness. Accordingly, loneliness is also the all-apparent theme, along with longing and warmth. As in "Strawberry Shortcakes" director Hitoshi Yazaki again manages to bring loneliness to screen not in shape of cold emptiness, which eventually would constitute a frustrating viewing experience, but leaves us with hope for some sort of salvation in the end. The story, which is based on a novel by Kaori Ekuni, delivers delicately drawn characters, dialogues and metaphors which make "Sweet Little Lies" a recommendable drama for all those who can warm up to honest movies with emotions, but without any obvious sentimentality.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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