Strange and vibrant and melancholy all at once, TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT is what happens when you take a would-be Manic Pixie Dream Girl out of a straight man’s narrative gaze and give her interiority. It’s pretty great.
Based on the best-selling 2010 novel by ex-wunderkind Risa Watanaya, director Akiko Ohku’s quirky rom-com follows Yoshika Edo, a virginal 24-year-old accountant that’s been in love with her middle school crush for the last long-suffering 10 years.
They’ve spoken once.
But Yoshika’s convinced that “One,” the first–and until now, only–guy she’s ever been interested in is her soulmate. She talks about him to everyone, spinning out her plans for their future; but as a new man, “Two,” one of her coworkers, confesses his own feelings for her, Yoshika’s fantasy world begins to unravel as she tries to decide between two lovers.
Mayu Matsuoka is stunningly versatile in the lead, playing Yoshika’s highest highs and lowest lows moments with equal parts emotional intensity and offbeat comedic timing. Ohku knows Matsuoka’s expressive face is her best canvas, often zooming for extended shots wherein a whole host of feelings can play out unhurriedly in the actress’s eyes. Takumi Kitamuri is adequately aloof and mysterious as the princely One, while it took me longer to warm up to Daichi Watanabe’s goofy & slightly grating Two–but by the film reached its rain-soaked climax, I was taken aback by the complexity and raw emotion he built up in the third act.
Overall, the movie is mood whiplash at its most satisfying. From spurts of magical realism to oddly sedate musical numbers, as Yoshika makes realizations about herself and the people around her, audiences will resonate with the driving force behind the film: a meditation on loneliness, and the desire to be seen.
TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT will screen Saturday, July 28th at the JAPAN CUTS film festival. Get your tickets here.