Before I watched the following drama-fantasy film, my movie watchlist only consisted of thrillers and mysteries—every so often, a romantic comedy made its way on the list. But this time, I gave the Japanese art film, Before the Sunset, a try. The film was released on September 29th, 2023 in theaters across the U.S. for a limited time, ahead of its digital and on-demand release through Freestyle Digital Media.
Directed by Hiroshi Akabane, the story follows an 80-year-old retired gentleman, Terasawa Kazunori (Masane Tsukayama). Now living in a retirement home with much respect from his peers after establishing an enterprise on his own, Kazunori has found himself to be lonely. However, he finds comfort in 20-year-old college student volunteer, Asuka Yamane (Rikako Miura). I saw their relationship as that of resembling a grandfather and granddaughter. As Kazunori shares his past with her, viewers learn that he is a father to two sons and a daughter. While Kazunori lost contact with one of his sons after the son eloped and joined a rock band, his other son drifted away from his father to avoid becoming a similar workaholic. Viewers also learned that Kazunori’s daughter was an alcoholic whose addiction led to her dying in a motorcycle accident.
Kazunori admits to Akura that although he succeeded in life professionally, his lack of family made him feel lonely. After Akura asks God to grant Kazunori one wish, the elderly man wishes to be 20 years old again to help Akura heal from heartbreak. Soon after, he finds himself to be a young college student. Though confused, a young Kazunori (Hiroaki Tanaka) starts his new life with the goal of having no regrets.
As a lover of the Fall season, I found the beginning scene of Kazunori and Asuka surrounded by Fall scenery to be a beautiful start to the movie. As the story progressed, I admired how much Kazunori cared for Azuka and her for him. While she doubts her dreams of being an actress, he encourages her to pursue her passion.
All in all, though a unique story, it isn’t something I would voluntarily watch on my own. As I stated, I prefer stories with mystery and a little action. Unfortunately, dramas don’t grab my attention as easily.
Because I couldn’t watch the film on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, I was unable to use an English audio. Even though the film includes English subtitles, I found it difficult to follow along with the words while the magic happens onscreen. If I turned away for a brief second, I’d run the risk of missing something important in the film. I was also a bit confused as to whether Azuka and Kazunori’s wishes were meant to come across as answered prayers to God or magical wishes that somehow came true.
While I don’t have any plans to pick up a similar film, this one had a sweet message to take the chance to realize what in life is most important.