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NYAFF 2008: Fine, Totally Fine

Anchored by wonderful performances and confidant direction, Fine, Totally Fine is equal parts laugh-out-loud and moving – a refreshingly earnest change of pace from the cynicism in today’s cinema.

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Yoshiyoshi Arakawa has been a recognizable face in Japanese cinema over the few years, appearing as a supporting character in some of the best films the country has to offer (Ping Pong, Memories of Matsuko). He finally gets his shot at a starring role in the offbeat comedy Fine, Totally Fine and boy does he run with it. The film follows three listless characters who form the most pathetic of love triangles while trying to make something of their lives. Teruo (Arakawa) is a horror geek who boasts about wanting to create the world’s scariest haunted house but is too lazy to make it a reality. His best friend Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), a straight-laced hospital administrator, plays Igor in his experiments in fear. Hopelessly quirky – and clumsy – Akari (Yoshino Kimura) provides the meat in their love sandwich as a socially awkward amateur artist who can’t find a job that will fit her talents (or lack there of). True to form, the sexual tension barely gets any traction as the three struggle to carve out a niche in life they can call their own.

Fine, Totally Fine is the rare quirky comedy done with a subtle touch. More concerned with the pleasures found in the margins of life, the film has little interest in making grand gestures. First time writer/director Yosuke Fujita never takes the easy route to setup a happy ending for his trio, instead striving for something more honest. We’re not let down when the characters’ dreams aren’t realized because we understand why. Fujita spent 8 years working as a hospital janitor before making the film, an experience which imbues the picture with understanding. Anchored by wonderful performances and confidant direction, Fine, Totally Fine is equal parts laugh-out-loud and moving – a refreshingly earnest change of pace from the cynicism in today’s cinema.

 

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