Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Masaki Suda, Ayami Nakajo
Director: Tatsushi Ômori
Running Time: 75 mins
Seto & Utsumi is a Japanese film about two school students who spend their afternoons sitting on some steps by the river discussing life, love and everything in between.
More often than not, this sort of film is really boring, and that’s exactly what I expected going in. However, with two excellent lead characters, some interesting and relatable stories, and an unorthodox atmosphere, Seto & Utsumi is actually an engrossing watch, at least once you’ve got used to it.
Normally, the premise of the most mundane situation leading to discussions and encounters with the most extraordinary things is pretty underwhelming, but this film doesn’t really try to be particularly extraordinary. Some moments are undoubtedly a little over the top, but what works best is when we get to learn the deepest feelings of both Seto & Utsumi, and when the pair of them are simply chatting like good friends.
The dialogue in this movie is fantastically realistic. It’s not pretentious, nor is it particularly dull, but it feels exactly like the way two teenagers would just chat after school. What’s more is that the conversations don’t feel like the two are deliberately examining their lives at the current moment, but rather coming across those topics with whatever they see in front of them or however the conversation moves along.
And even more entertaining on that side of things is the fact that the two of them don’t really seem to get along in the way that typical movie best friends do. Instead, Seto is always upset at how well Utsumi’s life is going, and Utsumi doesn’t do much to reciprocate the feeling and make his friend feel any better, but that’s actually how most human beings interact in the real world, something that I definitely didn’t take for granted when watching this film.
The two lead performances are excellent as well. Sosuke Ikematsu is hilarious as the cool intellectual Utsumi, and contrasts perfectly with Masaki Suda as the somewhat unstable Seto. They both play their characters brilliantly throughout, with the right balance between the comedic side of their personalities and the drama that crops up throughout the movie, adding hugely to how much you grow to like the two guys over the course of the film.
Away from that, another big positive of this movie is its very unorthodox atmosphere. The story surrounding two guys sitting on some steps for 75 minutes is different enough, but director Tatsushi Ômori gives the film this particularly weird, bordering on surreal, atmosphere by using a combination of natural sounds and instrumental soundtracks, sudden and unexpected changes in the story, and a couple of seemingly out-of-sequence sequences throughout.
Overall, I quite liked Seto & Utsumi. Taking a potentially boring premise and making it both enjoyable and engaging, you’ll easily be able to pass the time with these two guys having a chat about their lives, and although the content of their conversations isn’t the most riveting, the performances and directing that deliver it are impressive enough to make it engrossing all the same, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.