I was all set for a huge grumble about the running time. I wanted to suggest that a decent director could tell this same story in two hours and that Hamaguchi was ill-disciplined and shouldn't take his audience for granted. You want my precious time and attention for how long?! But then I saw his movie. I understood. I can't think of one scene I would remove or trim ...Well, maybe that book reading scene.
I thought this movie was incredible. Like Kore-eda meets Rohmer, with a tinge of Assayas. It's more than the sum of those parts, though. I think it's better to go in without knowing much more than it being the story of four Japanese women in their late 30's, because your viewing will benefit from the surprises therein. Much like in life, time flies by while you're watching this movie.
A film that dares to ask a question as big as "what does art give us?" and delivers a response as encompassing and intimate as we could hope. Orbiting around central themes of touch, balance, giving life and what we live for, this is magical and beautiful cinema, so close to the inner experience of reality that makes questions of verisimilitude seem immature. If art is humanism this is a towering achievement.
While most festivals and so-called cinephiles are stubbornly focusing their attention on the works of out-of-date directors like Kore-eda, Iwai, and Kurosawa, a new wave of filmmakers embarked on a mission to rewrite J-Cinema after a run-of-the-mill last decade, by re-invoking the sweet sensitiveness of the 90s. Petal Dance, 0.5 mm, The Tale of Iya, and Hamaguchi’s debut – Happy Hour – are all powerful works of art.