May 02, 2012|
An adaptation of a beloved manga, Always, the first installment of the films came out in 2005, and instantly garnered a cult following. Almost five years after Always 2 (2007), Always: Sunset on Third Street concludes the trilogy. Set in 1964, Always 3 continues to trace the destinies of the same ordinary Japanese folk in the same ordinary Tokyo street, with the Olympic games and the world’s first live broadcast as the backdrop.
Rokujang (Maki Horikita) is now grown up and falls in love for the first time with a young and trendy surgeon, Kotaro Kikuchi (Mirai Moriyama) who shows her how Japanese society outside her small street has changed. She has to keep this relationship a secret because of nasty rumors surrounding him, and because she’s worried her boss and guardian, Mr. Suzuki, will think she’s too young to date. With this love story as its backbone, Always 3 also zigzags between other subplots: the two boys Junnosuke (Kenta Suga) and Ippei Suzuki (Kazuki Koshimizu) are grown up and preparing for their university admission; Ippei starts practicing electric guitar and doesn’t want to work at his father’s garage; Chagawa (Hidetaka Yoshioka) wishes his son would enter a good university and join a large corporation but Junosuke would rather follow in his father’s footsteps as a writer; and the beautiful Hiromi (Koyuki) is going to give birth to her first child.
Always 2 was a bit of a letdown. More of an appendix to the first installment, it lacked its own distinct narrative arc. But the third installment is back in full force. The tension between old and new Japan is at its height, expressed through both technology and generational gaps. Our only complaint would be that Always’ ambitions to portray a national destiny through its characters can verge on tub-thumping patriotism. Themes of consumerism, the search for happiness and changing societies are universal—something Always at times loses sight of.
Always is often considered a bit of a tear jerker—and part three is no exception. But while some Japanese films go for cheap melancholy, this film manages to move you with the barebones simplicity of the situation it portrays. There are no sophisticated plot twists, nothing keeps you guessing, but there are no clichés either. This is just life: pure, simple, brilliantly acted and totally inspiring.