review by Neo

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Just add sugar and spice…
Once in a while there will be a film that will remain close to Neo’s heart and the effect is like watching the film from an angle that can relate to his own past and present. Sugar and Spice is a beautiful love story that is by far more realistic and affecting than the usual manufactured flick. It is a movie that expresses the notion of memories and how difficult it is for one to forget someone and the memories that comes with it. People are constantly shaped by their past experiences and it is true that in life there are times when you should move on, but this flick correctly depicts the difficulty of accepting someone else, when your heart still lies elsewhere. Japanese cinema nowadays are renowned for interesting romantic dramas and Sugar and Spice goes a step further by defying the cliché aspects and delivering something that seems so real and relating. Perhaps, Neo is a bias observer, but it is a film that goes the route not taken and the outcome is ultimately both satisfying and affecting.

The movie goes like this: Shiro (Yuya Yagira) is a 17-year-old boy, fresh from high school graduation, finds himself standing in between adolescence and adulthood. He shirks off college and takes a job at a gas station for no other reason than an ambition to do something with cars. For guidance and moral support, Shiro turns to grandmother Fujiko (Mari Natsuki), who owns a local watering hole and wields the greatest influence on his spiritual. One day, Shiro surprisingly meets a college girl, Noriko (Erika Sawajiri) who arrives at the gas station as the newly-hired help. He now is love-struck, and his bittersweet initiation into adult life begins.

Firstly and utmost, Erika Sawajiri (A Litre of Tears) is back once again and putting Neo’s bias feelings for this actress aside, her performance is adequate, but ultimately criminally underused and under-explored. It is a shame that she is in a supporting role, despite being so crucial to the story and the outcome of the romance. Still, there is a lot to like about this girl as she seems almost perfect if you can discount the teeth factor. While a lot of the audience may be rooting for the main male lead Yuya Yagira for his care and honest love for Erika, Neo seems to relate towards Erika’s struggles of letting go and the underlying problem of embracing a new relationship. The performance of Yuya is worth mentioning as he handles an extremely difficult role with a measure of distinction, but then again he did rubbed some fame by being acclaimed as the 57th Cannes Film Festival Best Actor, punching an honour alongside the class of Tong Leung Chiu Wai. As Neo used to quote – to pursue a dream is difficult, but letting go is harder, this line of experience is never as evident as it is so beautifully depicted in Yuya’s grandmother picture of the sun behind the Fuji Mountain. Ultimately love is all about timing and for the case of Yuya, it is clearly an issue of meeting the wrong person at the wrong time. The result of the flick may seem rather unfair or unjust to someone who loved and care for someone so much, only to realise that her heart is still within her memories of her past, but then again love like life is never fair.

The soundtrack of the movie is definitely worthy of complementation as it seamlessly depicts the emotions of the audience and the actors with a bittersweet taste of regrets, love, warmth and the beauty of finding someone that you truly want to be with. Director Isamu Nakae is to be commended for directing something so realistic to modern day romance and the effect of memories will forever remains in one’s heart. Almost two years ago, Neo shared a short period of memories and romance with a girl and for some reason or no reason at all, they fall apart with the fault obviously pointing at Neo’s indecisiveness and lack of maturity to handle the situation at that time. Fast forward to present day, Neo is now hopefully far more matured and have been in and out of countless relationships and with every step of falsely moving on, it have resulted into a delayed realisation of how much Neo still treasure the moments and feelings from almost two years back. Perhaps it is human nature to long for something that we cannot have, but ultimately to this very day; Neo still does not know the girl’s true feelings now and then. Perhaps there won’t be another opportunity, unlike Sugar and Spice, but after all, if it happens, it happens.

All in all, Sugar and Spice is a beautiful piece of love story that goes the route not taken and for that it have resulted into an affecting work of realism. Perhaps it is the relating factors of the film that makes it better and far more interesting than Neo is complimenting, but nonetheless it is rare that one can sit through two hours without being bored. With all being said and putting Neo’s various bias factors aside, Sugar and Spice remains a beautiful film that have the ability to depict the beauty of finding the right person and the sugar and spice that goes along with it... after all, you cannot survive with candies alone…

I rate it 9/10

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Yuya Yagira... Shiro
Mari Natsuki... Fujiko
Erika Sawajiri... Noriko
Directed by: Isamu Nakae
Genre: Romantic Drama

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