Undeniably Japanese, A Story of Yonosuke is a beautifully endearing tale that maps out the incredible impact one person can have on the lives of others. Split into four admittedly very lengthy parts it surrounds the life of Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kengo Kora). Taking us through his freshman year at University in Tokyo this Nagasaki native is forever joyful and has a profound impact on those he meets. Set predominantly in the 1980’s it is connected to the modern day by four friends of Yonosuke (whose name is apparently hilarious in Japanese). Each have lost contact with Yonosuke but are in turn reminded of their time with him and the remarkable impact he has had on their lives for some so ‘ordinary’. Yuseke Kato (Gou Ayano) describes the impact best when he says ‘I somehow feel luckier than you because I knew him.’
It is clear from my other reviews I’m not often bowled over by lengthy, slow dramatic tales and with a running time of over 130 minutes this film filled me with dread, but A Story of Yonosuke however is somewhat different. Though it will inevitably put some viewers off, the complexity and beauty of Yonosuke coupled with a stunning emotional performance by Kengo Kora is so lovable that I honestly felt luckier for having watched the film. For obvious reasons when I watch many foreign language films there are always times when your attention is drawn from the actor’s face due to my inherent need to read the dialogue to but with A Story of Yonosuke there is little in the way of story that cannot be told by the images on screen. The facial expressions Kengo creates are endless and the friendships are so real and inviting I challenge anyone not to draw parallels to their own lives. Kengo Kora is supported by a stunning cast, particular mention should go to Sosuke Ikematsu and Yuriko Yoshitaka whose performances are immeasurable and whose characters are so unique and fascinating that for me this film wasn’t near long enough.
Not only is this film hilarious it also features several heart-churning moments. A hospital scene between Yonosuke and his girlfriend Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka) is innocent and profound in its simplicity, not to mention the rousing speech given by Yonosuke’s mother at the film’s conclusion that gives the film its meaning. These moments tie in so well with the films otherwise cheerful nature and fully capture the joy of life that Shuici Okita is trying to create.
A Story of Yonosuke proves that comedy has more than one meaning. An ordinary plot with no real drama or suspense I wanted to watch it again the moment it finished. Though many may be put off by its length, or the style of Japanese film-making, I would recommend this to anyone and will be forcing it upon many!
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