While Masakiyo Sumida may have Cerebral Palsy and is confined to his wheelchair, he tries to live life like any normal person: drinking, partying, and just trying to have fun. With his condition not many people choose to engage with Sumida or if they do, treat him with special care when he does not want it. When his new and younger female caretaker arrives he grows a crush on her, but love soon turns to hate after she rejects him and he sees those who he once considered to be friends as betrayers. Sumida, a man who lived a carefree life and enjoyed his days becomes a man torn with rage and despair and becomes a killer.
I often say that a movie surprises me because I unfortunately have preconceived notions about the movies that I'm about to watch. As stupid as that may seem it's true, but there are movies that come along that go beyond being surprising and will knock the wind out of you because of how unexpected they are. "Late Bloomer" is one of those movies; I really didn't have any ideas about the movie as I had only heard that movie is good.
There are many levels to "Late Bloomer" that makes it such an amazing movie; the one that I think that makes it so powerful and makes Go Shibata a bold director is that he actually had a person with Cerebral Palsy playing the lead character, rather than a actor trying to portray a person with the condition. There have of course been other movies where they have actual people with a disability, but not quite as often as the lead. But what makes it amazing in the case of "Late Bloomer" is it allows the movie to blur the lines of fiction and reality. Masakiyo Sumida who is the lead in the movie; this is who he is, not the serial killer aspect of a movie but a man with a condition who is trying to live a normal life. What "Late Bloomer" does is gives us a peak into his life and loses the illusion of a movie and in a sense becomes more of a documentary. Plenty of people will brush the movie off as looking cheap because it was shot on hand held DV cameras. Though when you really watch the movie, with the movie being shot like this it helps sell the realism and make you feel like what you are watching is real and not just a movie.
The story of Masakiyo Sumida and the man himself is also what allows the movie to have such a sense of realism and have emotional strength. What the movie's story boils down to is a person who is kept at arms length by society because of his condition, when he just wants to be treated like everyone else because he is like everyone else. Something I'm guilty of myself; they don't want sympathy they want equality. "Late Bloomer" demonstrates that as well as Masakiyo, he has desires like any normal man; he wants to get down, party, and have a good time just like anyone else. Just like anyone else, he also can be consumed by jealousy and that's when "Late Bloomer" becomes a movie again it's this jealousy that drives Masakiyo to kill. His desire to be seen as an equal and believing those close to him think less of him, to the point that he sees his friend stealing the woman he has feelings for has him reach the end of his limits. So he does what he feels he needs to do to regain control and unfortunately that is to turn to murder.
When "Late Bloomer" allows itself to be a movie it has a great sense of style, so much so that I actually had a hard time deciding as to what genres it qualifies as. A number of sites label it as cyberpunk, and you can see the influence the Japanese cyberpunk subgenre had on the movie. Particularly with a fantasy sequence where Masakiyo sees himself driving his wheelchair into a concert crowd and shooting up the place. When the killer aspect of the story takes place it does have a thriller atmosphere to it, but Shibata gives these scenes a strong sense of surrealism with almost experimental-esque visuals. The story itself is heavily embedded in drama but it is able to look both like a movie and a documentary at the same time.
To have so many contradicting styles and different elements it would be hard for any movie and director to keep it uniform and not become a jumbled mess. Thankfully Shibata was able to do so and in doing so allowed his movie to have many layers to it which makes it truly a unique experience as well as a movie.
"Late Bloomer" is one of those rare movies that you'll find that's rich with substance and style, yet is rather simplistic in nature. It is also one of those movies that will divide the audience from those who can enjoy the experience and the artistic merit of a movie, from those who are merely looking for entertainment. Because the movie so powerful in terms of the story and characters and is able to seamlessly blend itself into reality it actually left me in a depressed state after it was over. Due to being at the movie's core, it is a rather sad tale of a man wanting acceptance in a world that treats him differently and as a result becomes a killer. I wish I would have seen "Late Bloomer" sooner because it would have easily made the list of the top films of the decade.