Starring: Ryôko Shinohara, Suzu Hirose, Yuka Itaya
Director: Hitoshi Ône
Running Time: 118 mins
Sunny: Our Heart Beat Together is a Japanese film about a woman who, upon learning of her childhood best friend’s terminal illness, decides to reunite her gang of lively friends from back in high school, the best years of their lives.
Another wonderful retelling of the Korean original, and following the brilliant Vietnamese remake, Go-Go Sisters, Sunny: Our Hearts Beat Together is a delight, and although it doesn’t quite match up to either of those previous films, it impresses with likable characters, a great story and brilliantly heartfelt emotion throughout.
Given the fact that it’s a remake, I can’t credit this film entirely with the screenplay, but there’s no denying just what a great story it is. Having now watched effectively the same film three times – just in different languages – I was still totally captivated by Sunny, with its wonderful take on both coming-of-age drama and beautiful, wistful childhood nostalgia.
Much like the other two movies, this Japanese remake plays heavily on nostalgia, and although I can’t say that it creates quite as characterful a depiction of the childhood era as the rebellious 1980s in South Korea and Vietnam, it’s that emotion and wonderful bond of friendship that plays strongest throughout, and with the reunion of the group over twenty years on, it’s difficult not to be caught up in the pure delight of it all.
On the flipside, the present-day story is much stronger, and with a selection of wonderful performances that mix better with the film’s sense of humour than the younger characters, you have a film that, while not entirely perfect, can grab and entertain you within a moment, particularly as it heads into that brilliantly enjoyable and deeply moving final act.
Throughout, this film is a little more uneven than both the previous iterations of Sunny. The Korean original also suffers occasionally from the same issue, with the emotion and charisma of the present day story outweighing the fun-loving antics of the high school period, but this film also suffers from being just a little shrill and excessive in its portrayal of those times gone by.
While both the Korean and Vietnamese films employ music heavily, this Japanese one goes a little too far, and with a brand of music that lacks the character and emotion of the themes in the other two films, as well as a little too much in the way of screaming and screeching from the main characters in their most energetic moments, that rather shrill feeling proves frustrating at times, and takes away from the purely delightful nature of the story.
With that said, the performances are excellent across the board, and the film’s final act is more than moving once again – perhaps even stronger than both of the two previous versions. In the end, while this isn’t a perfect movie, and doesn’t match the Korean original or the brilliance of the Vietnamese version, it has the warmth, humour and emotion throughout to make for a thoroughly delightful watch regardless, and that’s why I’m giving Sunny: Our Hearts Beat Together a 7.8 overall.