A practice engrained by years in newspapers has me avoiding the use of staged/photoshopped promotional photos for reviews of films.
But this image so perfectly encapsulates the Japanese weeper romance “Love Like the Falling Petals,” that avoiding it wouldn’t be fair to the reader.
It’s an insipid “meet cute” romance that never lives up to that introduction, a maudlin meander through an old fashioned Tokyo courtship (mostly chaste) that takes a turn towards “Disease of the Week” TV movie. And that’s rarely a label we trot out for films we endorse.
Yoshihiro Fukagawa’s film, based on a novel by Keisuke Uyama, reaches for a love-is-fleeting-but-love-can-be-eternal message yet struggles to not be love-can-be-damned-boring in this soggy, sentimental slog.
A young photographer (Kento Nakjami) voice-over narrates his love story with the hair dresser (Honoka Matsumoto) he took almost a year to ask out.
“People’s hearts can be more fickle than flower petals,” everybody seems to know. But when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, he gets up his nerve and springs an invitation on her while he’s in her chair. It’s just that he abruptly turns his head as he does.
Blood and profuse apologies fill the Penny Lane Salon. But Misaki’s tears and offer to “pay your medical bills, do whatever you want,” sounds like an opening to earlobe-lopped Haruto. A “date” it is.
He’s somewhat anal retentive, fretting over what day they should go see the flowers, weather being a prime factor. She’s an orphan whose gruff, bluff bartender brother considers himself her father figure and the diners/drinkers at his pub her “family.” Threats notwithstanding, a love story begins.
But it turns out Haruto only passed himself off as a photographer. He quit an internship at a prestigious photographer’s studio and subsists on dead end jobs. Misaki lights into him, and chastened, he apologizes.
“I’ll turn the lie into truth!” (subtitled, or dubbed) he promises.
There’s a lot of apologizing here, a signature of Japanese culture that decorates almost every film you see from there. But there’s little sense of the life there and how lives are lived and how love can um BLOOM in “Love Like the Falling Petals.” The liveliest milieu is that bar, the scenery sampled is limited and the romance only turns truly “real” when she gets her “An Affair to Remember/Dark Victory” news and they part.
So the arc of this story is insipid to tragically sad. And neither extreme is certain to provoke more than an indifferent shrug from even the most saccharine-tolerant viewer.
Rating: TV-14, sexual situations, possible suicide
Cast: Kento Nakajima, Honoka Matsumoto
Credits: Directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, scripted by Tomoko Yoshida, based on the novel by
Keisuke Uyama. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:09