Discovering Hidden Gems on Netflix: Tokyo Fiancée
There is nothing like discovering a great movie on Netflix on a lazy Saturday morning after a crazy night out on Friday. You wake up in a daze, your body has no energy to move, and your mind doesn’t help by letting you know that Monday is far away. So you turn to social media; you go through your Facebook newsfeed, you buzz through Buzzfeed articles, you checkout Instagram, and you check snapchat for reminders of exactly how crazy last night was. You have wasted an hour and you still don’t want to move. Finally, you turn to Netflix, browsing through the titles of things you don’t want to see. However, you decide that today you are going to take a chance and watch that one movie that doesn’t look that tempting in the hope that it is something original, something that makes you smile, something that makes your day. You find [ITAL]Tokyo Fiancée[ITAL].
This movie is told from the perspective of Amélie, a 20-year-old Belgian girl who was born in Japan. Although Amélie was born in Japan, she only lived there until she was five. Now she returns to immerse herself in Japanese culture. To support herself and her Japanese lessons she starts teaching French to Rinri, a boy from a wealthy traditional Japanese family, who, ironically enough, aspires to emulate European culture. Soon they start dating and the story progresses with Rinri showing Amélie his Japan.
This is when we are transported from our couches and chairs — or, in my case, bed — to Japan and taken on a grand tour by a local. A great man once said, “I would love to see the world if only I could do it from the comfort of my bed.” Wait, I think that great man might be me! In all seriousness though, I love movies which transport you to different places and immerse you in different cultures. Movies have this ability to give you the feel of a place, and that is exactly what this movie does so well: it makes you feel like you are in Japan.
Yes, yes, I hear you movie buffs chanting Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola — Yes, I have watched it! Yes, I really liked it! But let’s not be so lost in translation anymore! Let’s attempt to understand each other. That’s what this movie is about: it is Amélie’s attempt to understand Japan, and to understand Japan through Rinri.
This happens in several ways. Such as when Amélie visits Rinri’s home. We get to see all the ultra-modern amenities in his kitchen and his robot pet, but we also get to see a hidden basement full of old books and antiques. Another way is through Rinri’s preferences: his Yakuza films, his karaoke, and his liking for pole dancing clubs. We also get to understand Japan through the couple's adventures. One scene stands out among others — Rinri takes Amélie to see the trains, and behind the train lines is a man who sings when the trains are passing by. Amélie asks why the man sings in that spot since it's impossible for him to hear his own voice. To this, Rinri responds that he doesn’t want to disturb anyone. Through these kinds of seemingly trivial exchanges, we get a better understanding of Japan and its culture.
Other than getting Japan’s image right, this movie also does little things that make me smile. For example, whenever Amélie imagines her future, it is shown inside a traditional Japanese house with Japanese music. In one instance, when Amélie imagines that Rinri has become her ‘Japanese lover,' she breaks out into song and dance wearing a shirt with the Japanese flag on it and singing in Japanese. These scenes really help dissipate the tension of the film and add a little humor to it. Another thing that made me smile while watching the movie was how it introduces another western girl, a French woman who, like Amélie, wants to be Japanese. The movie progresses to show her getting married to a Japanese man; this serves as a great parallel to Amélie and Rinri’s story. One more thing that made me smile was the way food is shot in the film. There is a lot of it, and it looks really really good! You have been warned: do not watch this film on an empty stomach!
Having mentioned these great things, I have to say that every movie does have its flaws. There was an entire section of the movie about Amélie rediscovering herself when she got lost while trying to climb a mountain that I didn’t quite get the significance of. Also, in a crucial scene in the film, when she is about to mention something important, an octopus literally got her tongue. Eating live octopus actually is a thing in Japan. I thought that was a little too ironic, a little too coincidental.
Imperfections and minor quibbles aside, I really enjoyed the movie. The ending, I can say without giving too much away, is bittersweet. You may wish for another payoff, but with the way the story goes no other payoff would have truly satisfied you as a viewer. So, give it a watch on a lazy Saturday — maybe it will leave a smile on your face too.