I have a love for the cinemas of Japan and Hong Kong. I don’t just mean fight movies, horror movies and films about the Yakuza/Triads. Believe it or not both countries do make dramas and suspense-filled thrillers. But they also make some really depressing shit too. I mean some really gut wrenching tragic love stories. No, I’m not talking about the love story in movies like Chocolate, besides that was a Thai movie and at the rate Thailand has been making insane fight movies both Hong Kong and Japan need to be wary.
“But James” I can hear that same person who always asks these questions say, “Surely you have an example of such gut wrenching drama don’t you?”
Why yes, yes I do. Say hello to A Song For The Sun (Taiyo No Uta), quite possibly the most depressing romantic movie I’ve watched in a long time. To think a movie that was made to promote a pop star’s music can end up being so moving was quite the fucking surprise, especially to cinema cynic such as myself. The movie was used as a means to get J-Rock wunderkind YUI more mainstream exposure and boy did it pay off for her in the long run. But I’m not here to bash YUI, actually it is quite the opposite as I think for someone so young, a mere 22 years old presently, she is one hell of a songwriter. The question of whether or not she can act is answered by her performance in A Song To The Sun.
A Song For The Sun tells the tale of Kaoru (YUI), a girl that suffers from Xeroderma Pigmentosa. Now Xeroderma Pigmentosa are pretty big words for yours truly to be tossing out on good ol’Brave Blog so do allow me to explain what it is. Basically it is a genetic anamoly that results in the body not being able to repair basic damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. What that means in basic layman’s terms is… The Sun Can Fucking Kill You! Anyway, this is what Kaoru suffers from, thus her ability to lead a normal life is right out the window. Her parents run a small cafe at a seaside town. Kaoru can’t go to school because of that whole school being held during the day thing. So she sleeps during the day and at night she goes out with her guitar and sings in the local square. It all changes one day in the wee hours of the morning when Kaoru sees a surfer boy waiting at a bus stop for his pals.
The boy in question is Koji, a high school kid who spends his time failing math class (I’m guessing) and the rest of the time surfing. Naturally Kaoru develops a crush on him. The next night she is playing at her usual spot when our boy Koji walks by. Given that Kaoru has no real social skills, she chases him down on the street like an ape running down Charlton Heston in a field of wheat. She clumsily introduces herself and Koji is, well he looks a little weirded out. Luckily, Kaoru’s cousin/best friend/bad influence Airi grabs her before any major damage is done. Airi, it turns out, attends the same school as Koji and thus begins gathering intel on our beloved surfer boy.
The next night/early morning Kaoru sits at the bus stop across the street from her house with her guitar in an attempt to ambsuh/creep out Koji. He arrives on his scooter and decides to humor his new found stalker. They strike up a conversation and somehow Koji, who has obviously never watched Fatal Attraction, agrees that he will see Kaoru again so he can hear her sing. When they do meet again the next night, Kaoru drags Koji to the square but her spot has been taken over by another street performer. Now Koji is a good egg, so he decides to take Kaoru to the city since she has never been. They do a little sight seeing and find an empty square and Kaoru plays her song which gathers a small crowd for the performance. The 2 return home and the date is about to end on a romantic note except for the fact that the sun is rising and Karu has to get indoors. She runs away from Koji, who is totally confused. Kaoru makes it inside her house but not before getting splashed with little bit of rising sunshine.
Koji eventually learns about Kaoru’s Xeroderma Pigmentosa and is completely stunned. Even worse is that Kaoru refuses to see him. Our man Koji is shrewd though and begins to make arrangements for her to actually record her songs. The two finally get to meet again due to Kaoru’s father inviting the boy over. He wss kinda concerned that this surfer punk was always around the house and wouldn’t leave them alone. It is then that Kaoru realizes that Koji really does care about her. Koji tells Kaoru that he has actually gotten her some studio time to record. The bad news is, Kaoru is sick from her exposure to the sun. Even worse is that she isn’t likely to get better.
Look I could finish telling you what happens in this film but then you wouldn’t bother trying to watch it. It is a great romantic story but also a romantic movie that YOU should watch yourself. The performances are all solid and believable. YUI comes across as genuinely likable and genuine in her portrayal of Karou and Takashi Tsukamaoto (Koji) is also very good. The movie starts sweet and innocent and then slowly turns the sad corner but it is so well done that none of it feels forced or unbelievable. We also get my favorite song by YUI, “Goodbye Days” as the single recorded during the movie. It is a song that fits the movie perfectly and damn if I actually didn’t dab my eyes by the time the credits on this thing rolled.
I must stress that I did not cry at the end of the movie. I was moved but I did not cry. I just had to dab my eyes due to the humidity in the room. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. In all seriousness though, if you’re a guy and you want your girl to cry on your shoulder and snuggle close, then this is the perfect movie to watch. Seriously, as sad as this movie is at the end, the rest of it is perfect date movie material. Shit son, you may even find yourself dabbing your eyes. The thing is, A Song Of The Sun, is about Koji becoming a man through the loss of his first love. While the movie focuses on YUI’s portrayal of Kaoru for the first act of the film, the second is all about Koji doing what he can to show Kaoru he cares. It is the third act where we, as the viewer, get a figurative punch in the gut as we watch this young love grow yet know it is doomed. The catch is, even though you know it is doomed you watch anyway. In fact it is damn near impossible not to watch how it all plays out. You get to see Kaoru get to have one of the few normal experiences of her life and Koji mature into something more than just a hopeless surfer kid.
First love, growing up… this is the type of movie that used to get made in the west all the time back in the 80s. Now Hollywood seems to run out of ideas as they remake movies that don’t really need it or just flat-out remake movies from overseas. I really hope Hollywood stays the fuck away from this film simply because it is perfect romance on celluloid and Hollywood would just fuck it up. I mean look at what they did to Ringu and Ju-On. Can you imagine how bad it would be if they started remaking Japanese drama?
In summary, A Song Of The Sun is a movie you should watch. It is sweet, sad and at times melodic. It is what young love should be, pure, innocent and full of hope. Track it down and watch for yourself, just make sure that you have something to dab your eyes with. I’m not saying you’re gonna cry, just got to be careful right?