Now Reading
Slight but Lovely Japanese Figure Skating Drama

Slight but Lovely Japanese Figure Skating Drama

In Hiroshi Okuyama’s My Sunshine, three souls find solace and poignant moments of self-discovery in figure skating. The film chronicles a season of the sport in a small town on a Japanese island, the kind of place whose melting snow and changing leaves inspire poetic musings. Guided by the beauty of the landscape and the nostalgia of childhood, Okuyama constructs a quiet narrative buoyed by an understated charm. 

The film opens with signs of a new season. During a baseball game, Takuya (Keitatsu Koshiyama), a sheepish boy with minor speech troubles, becomes mesmerized by snowflakes fluttering to the ground. While his teammates steal bases, he cranes his neck, angling for a better view of the crystals. Scenes of snow blanketing the town in Hokkaido, the Japanese island where Okuyama (Jesus) filmed My Sunshine, follow. These images — of powdery mountain peaks and quiet streets flanked by snow — possess the haunting mood and delicate detailing of Stephen Shore photographs. The mellow, almost ethereal, original music by Ryosei Sato, one half of the Japanese folk duo Humbert Humbert, adds a storybook quality to these establishing shots.

My Sunshine

The Bottom Line

Casts a (sometimes too) delicate spell.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Cast: Sōsuke Ikematsu, Keitatsu Koshiyama, Kiara Nakanishi
Director-screenwriter: Hiroshi Okuyama

1 hour 30 minutes

Okuyama, who is the director, screenwriter and cinematographer, fills My Sunshine with this kind of elegant imagery, all of which contributes to the almost fantastical mood of his story. The film, with its hazy aesthetic and languorous pacing, operates like a memory. 

Weather changes usher in a new season of sports. The next time we see Takuya, he is half-heartedly participating in an ice hockey game. When his teammates retreat to their lockers, he locks his gaze on a slender figure dancing on the ice. The girl, Sakura (Kiara Takanashi), is a rising star being trained by Arakawa (Sôsuke Ikematsu), a former talent who abandoned his skates and Tokyo for this small island. The reasons behind his retirement are murky and present one of the few areas where Okuyama’s desire to maintain the mood of a memory proves a drawback. (Another is with Sakura, whose strength as a character falters once Takuya becomes a skater.)

See Also

It’s Arakawa who notices Takuya watching Sakura, and takes it upon himself to introduce the young boy to the sport. They start with short lessons after hockey practice, evenings during which Takuya learns how to skate with more ease and precision. As Takuya becomes more skilled, Arakawa encourages Sakura and Takuya to team up and compete as a pair in ice dancing competitions. Sakura initially rebuffs the idea. She is quiet but severe in her pursuit of skating success. But she eventually warms to the possibility, especially as her attitude toward Takuya transitions from annoyance to curiosity and then an endearing affection.

Okuyama delicately threads the connection between these three souls through subtle shifts in perspective, creating a parallel emotional narrative. We are always watching one of them watching the other watch the other. In the trio’s first encounter, Takuya’s view of Sakura focuses on the grace of her movements; time seems to slow as he stares with a bit of wonder and envy. Arakawa’s perspective follows soon after. In the instructor’s gaze, we pick up excitement and a flash of recognition. When Arakawa loans Takuya his old skates, the gesture confirms what My Sunshine has already suggested: that the instructor sees himself in the younger boy, whose enthusiasm for skating is a contrast to Sakura’s intensity.

As the winter progresses, the relationship between the three changes, and Okuyama captures the subtly shifting dynamics with the fluidity of a dance sequence. Because of the film’s almost dreamy visual language, it takes a moment to register the narrative’s dramatic turn. Before we can process what is happening, the fissures between Sakura, Takuya and Arakawa widen, becoming unbridgeable chasms. 

My Sunshine is slender, its force residing in Okuyama’s compositions and the performances he pulls from the actors. When it comes to story, though, My Sunshine often stumbles instead of glides. Because Okuyama constructs the film like a memory, some elision and obliqueness are to be expected. But there are moments — especially revolving around Sakura and the drama that instigates the end of the three characters’ relationship — when Okuyama leans too hard on suggestion. More attention to deepening the narrative would not have disrupted the carefully built mood. In fact, it might have helped. Because while My Sunshine bathes us in the warm glow of nostalgia, its characters often seem to be at risk of being forgotten.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top