One of the most affecting and enigmatic teen-targeted Japanese films of the last few years, Horie Kei's Forget Me Not
(not to be mistaken with Hirayama Hideyuki's 2010 drama that bears the same English title) defies easy categorization, veering confidently between fantasy, drama, and youth romance.
Based on Hirayama Mizuho's 2006 novel "Wasurenai to Chikatta Boku ga Ita", Forget Me Not
touchingly explores the fragility of memories, as well as their power, in the process showcasing the talent of lead actress Hayami Akari, a former member of the now extremely popular J-pop group Momoiro Clover Z, and the star of last year's equally satisfying teen drama My Pretend Girlfriend
In Forget Me Not Hayami turns in a wonderfully subtle and emotionally charged performance as Oribe Azusa, an energetic, cheerful, and seemingly normal third-year high school student who, due to unknown circumstances, about a year ago became a hopeless victim of a mysterious curse of sorts, her name and face a constant source of bewilderment for her family and friends. It seems that everyone forgot poor Hayami exists, but she certainly didn't forget the people around her. And then, on one warm spring night a teenage boy on a bicycle bumps into Hayami, accidentally giving her life a new meaning.
Curiously, the boy, who quickly introduces himself as Hayama Takashi (Murakami Nijiro), appears to be the only person in the whole wide world that can remember Hayami, at least for more than a few hours. Although at first the heroine takes Takashi's words with a grain of salt -- a solid proof she's been badly hurt before -- she soon realizes that this might be her only chance at real happiness, and arrives at school the next day with a pretty smile on her face. When Takashi boldly vows to forever protect her, a tale of authentic romance follows.
18-year old Nijiro, who previously starred in Kawase Naomi's below-average effort Still the Water, once again shows he has a bright future ahead of him. Although his performance is overshadowed by the presence of Hayami, Nijiro constantly proves he knows how to balance between affection and confusion in a convincing and admirable manner. Plus, his character receives bonus points for the Tokyo Sonata and Bakumatsu Taiyo-den posters hanging on his bedroom walls.
In terms of narrative depth, Forget Me Not has plenty to offer. Refreshingly, the film abstains from cheesy sequences, overused pop tunes, and doesn't succumb to over-sentimentality. But what really sets it apart from other similar offerings is the expertly handled plot twist that redefines the picture's central relationship. Also, a phone camera, which elegantly shapes the narrative and ingeniously hints at Takashi's filmmaking aspirations, serves as a welcome addition to the film.
The exceptionally well-devised fantasy element, which is actually never fully explained, may very well act as a stark reminder that in our technologically obsessed era everything happens online. As the relatively new saying goes: "If you're not on [insert name of the social media platform of choice], you don't exist". That Azusa doesn't have a phone or an e-mail address -- let alone a Facebook account -- might in part explain why people can't remember anything about her.
Will Azusa ever be able to change her fate? For the sake of the mystery, that's one question better left unanswered.
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