Starring: Bae Doona, Aki Maeda, Yuu Kashii
Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Running Time: 114 mins
Linda Linda Linda is a Japanese film about four high school girls who form a band together, covering the songs of punk rock band The Blue Hearts. As they rehearse their music together again and again, they form a strong bond as they pass through the drama of high school, and the pressure of preparing for a concert.
This is a stunning little hidden gem. Upbeat, fun, dramatic and astonishingly engrossing, Linda Linda Linda does pretty much everything a film can do right brilliantly. The actual events of its story are no less real than your average high school student, but taking that slice of life, and portraying it so well, thanks to incredible directing, writing and acting, makes for an utterly enthralling watch.
That’s what really blew me away by this film. Up until the final ten minutes or so, I wasn’t thinking so much about what was happening in the plot, but was still totally captivated by the depth and heart of the story. The various romantic relationships and falling outs that we see evolve over the course of this film are nothing more than a vehicle to put across a real-life story about friendship and growing up.
Having to contend with the various social pressures that high school brings about, our four main characters begin to lose themselves in all manner of ways. Throughout, the film focuses heavily on three of the girls, each in their own segments of the story, allowing you to have an equally deep understanding and emotional connection to them all, coming to a head in the final act as the pressure seems to be too much.
The film’s portrayal of the foursome’s adventures whilst rehearsing for their concert is subtle, but ingenious from start to finish. On occasions, we see the individuals having their own various crises, and on others, we see all four of them banding together and working as hard as possible for their collective aim. In that, it’s both a dramatic and emotional story about each of their own thoughts and feelings, as well as an uplifting and heartfelt story that shows the power of strong friendship and teamwork, which was absolutely wonderful to see.
As I said, though, that’s a story which isn’t at all far-flung from normal high school students’ lives, and the fact that it is so realistic and down-to-earth makes it incredibly easy to relate, a significant reason for why I became so engrossed in this movie, and in such a natural and unexpected manner.
Another thing that makes the film feel incredibly realistic is the directing. This isn’t a fast-paced movie by any means, but that mirrors the sometimes sluggish and frustratingly slow nature of real life. Director Nobuhiro Yamashita also doesn’t go overboard with an excessively flamboyant visual style, keeping almost every scene as bare-bones and recognisable to real people as possible.
The way the film uses music is also incredible. With only three songs from the Blue Hearts, this film creates an incredibly powerful and hugely memorable soundtrack. Whilst it does use original instrumental music, it’s the perfect sort of score that both works well, and you never notice it. That allows the three title songs to play out as the main soundtrack of the film, just as pop would in anyone’s life, adding yet another level of down-to-earth realism, as well as the simple entertainment of listening to a few pretty fun pop songs.
Yamashita also does a great job at crafting a very potent atmosphere here. The screenplay is stunningly written, with brilliantly realistic dialogue that balances drama and comedy perfectly. Linda Linda Linda is by no means a comedy, with its emotional drama really shining through as it develops, but it’s also not a hard-hitting, draining drama. It has some wonderfully light-hearted moments, and although they’re not designed to make you laugh out loud, they go a long way to bringing this film’s atmosphere into balance, making it both an enthralling and simply pleasant watch.
Finally, the three lead performances are absolutely fantastic. There are four main characters, but as I said, we spend the majority of the film centred on three of the girls. Aki Maeda and Yuu Kashii are both excellent, and their performances give both of their characters distinct and memorable identities, as well as providing brilliant drama, and simply likable personalities to support along the way.
However, the real stand-out here is the performance from Bae Doona, which comes at you rather unexpectedly. Yet another example of the film’s down-to-earth realism, she plays a shy Korean exchange student who, as the story unfolds, becomes the very centre of focus. It’s a very subtle and quite performance for the most part, but her confidence throughout is the very reason that she’s such a convincing, enigmatic and enthralling central character of this film.
Overall, I absolutely loved Linda Linda Linda. Not expecting it at all, it’s a brilliantly down-to-earth slice of life comedy-drama that features stunning performances, brilliant directing, excellent dialogue, and a story that’s so heartfelt and dramatic that I just couldn’t take my eyes of the screen until after the credits had rolled past, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.7.