Starring: Yô Yoshida, Yoshino Kimura, Yuta Furukawa
Director: Hitomi Kuroki
Running Time: 105 mins
Desperate Sunflowers is a Japanese film about two cousins, one a reserved and prim lawyer, the other a loose-moralled drifter, who come into contact after years apart when a case brings their paths together, allowing for sparks to fly and tension to grow.
It’s a family drama with not all that much drama. Although following a fairly simple and consistent script surrounding two constantly quarreling cousins, Desperate Sunflowers is a film that fails to really grasp what makes a drama tick: conflict. As such, it languishes around over the course of an hour and three-quarters, failing to ever really grab you with its drama, even though it occasionally manages to salvage itself with the odd fairly entertaining moment of humour or slightly heartwarming bit of cheese.
The biggest problem by a mile for me here was the total lack of dramatic conflict. Now, you’d think that the premise, centring around two quarreling cousins, would be the perfect sort to set up an entire movie’s worth of conflict, but the problem is that the characters just don’t change or develop enough over the course of the movie for that quarreling to mean anything.
What’s more is that the argument between the two largely revolves around their relationship as children, and in the present, they’re hardly ever that close together, meaning that there’s even less opportunity for dramatic conflict.
Those two characters proved particularly frustrating to watch from beginning to end, as they prove so stubborn in their ways and resistant to change, growth or development, that the film becomes an absolute chore to watch, with very little keeping you intrigued given that there’s very little promise for change from the beginning.
Of course, the film does eventually conjure up a situation to make you question whether the opinions you’ve built up about the characters, one pent-up and emotionless, the other a loose-moralled drifter, but that’s too little too late, as the main characters’ changes feel inorganic and forced, with those twists in their arcs offering more interesting looks into the lives of the people around them than themselves.
Another big issue is the performances. Much like the characters’ inability to change, the two lead actresses feel like they’re only able to stick to one brief and follow it for the entirety of the movie. So, if one is a pent-up lawyer, then that part of the character is played up to the extreme, and the other, the loose-moralled drifter, is portrayed in another over-the-top manner, making for an equally frustrating watch.
Despite all that, the one good part of the film is the fact that it’s occasionally a fairly heartwarming and sometimes even funny watch. That doesn’t mean it’s ever a raucous comedy or a truly moving drama, but there are moments when everything takes a step back from the main story and allows for some room to breathe, featuring a couple of genuinely delightful scenes that really make everything feel a lot warmer and more interesting than the majority of the movie.
All in all, however, I wasn’t all that impressed by Desperate Sunflowers. Yes, it’s got a couple of nice moments that really do lift the atmosphere at times, but in general, it’s a poorly-written and lacklustre drama with next to no interesting character development or strong performances to make things more interesting, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.1 overall.