[Media Invite] Movie Review: Tokyo Anyway

Title: Tokyo Anyway
Loved it
Genre: Contemporary
Director: Camille Meynard
Actors: Benjamin Ramon, Violette Pallaro, Antojo
Country: Belgium, 2013
Language: In French with English subtitles

Camille, Faustine, Armel and Félix are four friends living and working in Brussels. In a single day, each of them arrive at a turning point in their lives. The film shows a generation’s struggle in building careers and families. With minimalistic style, Camille Meynard portraits the challenges of life at thirty.

Thirty is an odd number. It’s the age where individuals are expected to have begun the rest of their lives—stable enough to settle down, yet young enough to remember and yearn for the thrills of youth. Stability is the key term: a stable relationship, a stable job, someplace to settle in, someone to settle with and build a new home.

Tokyo Anyway tells the story of a group of friends now traversing their lives as they head into the milestone that is thirty years. Through warm, sepia-tinted flashbacks, we are shown the contrast between their lives in their early twenties to the present. We can see the contrasts between the four friends, and the pathways that each have chosen diverging from the common point when they were centered in a similar place emotionally and physically.

Once joyful shrieks of laughter turn into muted conversations filled with deep-seated bitterness and the heaviness of responsibility. Even catching up has changed, from once carefree days out in the sun to meeting up once in a blue moon for a seemingly obligatory dinner. It is yet another appointment on the calendar, a rite of duty. However, within these scenes lie the emotional strain of trying to keep their relationships alive, conveyed through short sighs, small shakes of the head and the almost imperceptible leaning towards and on each other.

These outings are no longer the fun events of the past. Much like the death of spontaneity is the tremulous hold each holds out to the other—from the friends-turn-couple of the group, Félix and Camille, to fellow friends Armel and Faustine. It is only within the comfort of decades old friendship that they could let out their hidden frustrations now hidden behind polite, empty small talk.

The film excels at framing events of magnitude in small, understated scenes. This is a quiet movie—one with barely a decibel above what is needed. The present-day scenes are tinted in cool stark tones as compared to the warm, sepia-tinged past. Each character is going through their own dilemma, yet it is the individual stories of Faustine and Félix which shine. This is partly a storytelling design—focus is given to these two characters, who have fleshed out stories with multiple scenes in multiple locations. The other two stories are more self-contained, presented in cramped, confined settings which reflect their state of mind but at the same time to the detriment of character portrayal.

In a way, Tokyo Anyway is a coming-of-age story packaged in an atmospheric, poignant film which revolves around four youths now truly settling into adulthood. It’s a decent effort from debut director Camille Meynard, though the message would have been better conveyed through some less abrupt editing choices

The Francophonie Festival runs from 10-22 March 2016, with a roundup of movies, exhibitions and concerts. For more details, please head on over to the Alliance française website.

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