Starring: Asae Ônishi, Kazuko Katô, Yoshimi Ashikawa
Director: Riki Okamura
Running Time: 98 mins
A Litre Of Tears is a Japanese film about a teenage girl suffering from a degenerative illness that, over the course of a few years, takes her from normal life to being barely able to walk or even talk.
Whilst this is a good film, I can’t help but feel massively disappointed. It features such an amazing story, with such promise for extreme emotional intensity, but that doesn’t ever really come off. Its pacing is very wobbly throughout, the directing is unexciting, the acting isn’t particularly stellar, and the dialogue isn’t natural enough, all of which make it so much harder to be pulled into this stunningly devastating story.
Let’s start off with what the film does well. Above all, the plot is incredible. Adapted from the memoirs of a real teenage girl who suffered from this disease, it has all the hallmarks of a pure tearjerker, and one with such painfully real heartbreak.
Although I felt that the film didn’t generally deliver on that premise with this story, it does still achieve a couple of other things. Firstly, it does a great job of bringing a relatively unknown real-life story to a wider attention, and it is a very enlightening account on the effects of this disease, spinocerebellar degeneration, which is always impressive to see.
Also, even though it’s not always as emotionally devastating as it should be, the film does well to show that the most painful part of suffering from this sort of disease isn’t just the physical pain, but the slow, soul-destroying deterioration of someone’s entire life, to the point where it’s almost unthinkable how you can cope with the emotional and physical stress, something that many films focusing on the topic don’t always do.
That said, I have to say that the film as a whole really doesn’t make use of this incredible story, and the main reason for that is the directing. Firstly, the film’s pacing is all over the place, featuring numerous very irregular and sudden jumps in time, as well as an incredibly slow-moving speed that actually doesn’t add to the painful nature of watching our main character get worse over the course of the movie.
Also, the film isn’t the most visually impressive. That’s by no means the main objective of this film, but too often did I feel frustrated by the lack of dynamic or original directing, with the film generally content to sit a camera in a very level position as we see conversations unfold, yet not long enough to make it a tough and emotionally draining experience.
What’s more is that I wasn’t too stunned by the performances here. Although some of the problem is down to the somewhat iffy dialogue, which really doesn’t convey the true-life nature of this devastating story, the actors aren’t so impressive either. With the exception of Asae Ônishi, who makes the physical degeneration of her character very apparent, I didn’t feel much emotional power from the lead actors at any point throughout, yet another reason that this film just wasn’t as devastating as I felt it should have been.
Overall, I was disappointed by A Litre Of Tears. Although its story is the recipe for something truly amazing, it’s not a cinematically impressive or interesting film, and with some relatively weak performances and directing, I just didn’t have the emotional effect I felt this story had to give, which is why I’m giving it a 7.1.