A Story of Yonosuke (Yokomichi Yonosuke)

A would-be charmer outstays his welcome

A Story of Yonosuke (Yokomichi Yonosuke)

© 2013『横道世之介』製作委員会

Director: Shuichi Okita
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu
Time Out rating:
Japanese title: Yokomichi Yonosuke

Everybody loves Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kengo Kora), even if they don't realise it yet. When we first meet the eponymous hero of Shuichi Okita's gentle comedy in Tokyo circa 1987, he's a mop-haired naif, freshly arrived from Nagasaki to enroll in university. Faster than you can say ‘Forrest Gump’, this guileless do-gooder has helped a couple of classmates hook up, enrolled in the college samba society and embarked on a will-they-won't-they relationship with Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka), a rich girl who might be even kookier than he is. Meanwhile, in the present day, his old pals begin to realise that funny old Yonosuke might have affected their lives in unexpected ways.

Writer-director Okita's previous films, The Woodsman and the Rain and Antarctic Chef, were amiable, unhurried affairs in which the routines of daily life – often played out in static, carefully composed medium and long shots – felt as important as the rare moments of drama. The appeal of this approach is pushed to the extreme in A Story of Yonosuke, which first beguiles and ultimately bores over the course of its needlessly distended, 160-minute running time. Working from a coming-of-age novel by Shuichi Yoshida (Villain), Okita and co-screenwriter Shiro Maeda seem to have forgotten that much of the art of adaptation lies in the pruning. The older versions of the film's characters may find real profundity in their memories of Yonosuke, but it's hard to discern it amongst the meandering, unfocussed action that comprises the main portion of the film.

Filleted to a shorter length, it would be easier to enjoy Yonosuke's modest – though not inconsiderable – charms, not least a sparkling support cast including Go Ayano, Ayumi Ito and Noriko Eguchi. Yoshitaka coasts easily through the role of Shoko, a part that she's essentially played a few times already, though she manages to find some depth in the brief scenes featuring her grown-up self. Too bad that Kora feels so miscast in the lead: a talented dramatic actor, he brings too much focus to a role that needed breeziness, and his Yonosuke often comes off not so much as a kook as a bit of a creep.

A Story of Yonosuke opens at cinemas nationwide on February 23

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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