Title: Love and Other Cults (Fantasia 2017 review)

Also known as:
Kemonomichi (Original title)

Year: 2017

Genre: Drama / Comedy

Language: Japanese

Runtime: 95 min

Director: Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5645536/

When Ai and Ryoto's paths cross, it is only the beginning of a long struggle in the urban world. Though their lives are not always spent with each other, there doesn't seem to be anyone else who understands their struggles than the two of them.

Our thoughts:
UK distributor and now producer Third Window Films continues to support the talent of Eiji Uchida by producing yet another of his films (as they did with "Lowlife Love" recently), and their new film is now playing Fantasia International Film Festival. Despite having a number of films in his filmography, Eiji Uchida is a relatively unknown force in Japanese filmmaking (at least to most people we meet). Every new film that he makes, I am certain that he will become a bigger cult favorite. Thanks to his peculiar blend of youthful energy, fun characters and serious themes he stands out in the industry.

Ai (Sairi Itô) was sent to a cult commune at a young age. When the cops arrest the members of the cult, she returns home to a family that doesn't care. Her life becomes a struggle and eventually she becomes as a prostitute because she just wants to belong. Ryoto (Kenta Suga) is a drop-out who gets tangled up in the world of crime when he proves that he has balls to the right person. But ever since Ai and Ryoto met, they both feel a connection to each other, but their lives just take them on different roads.

The title "Love and Other Cults" probably explains it in a better way than I will be able to. As mentioned before, this is a movie about belonging. It's about what how your relationships affect you, how the environment you're in shapes you, how interactions have consequences, and most of all it is about love. Find a place where you are loved and you will be the best version you can be. The character of Ai has had a life of not belonging and she is clinging to every person who accepts her, and lets that place shape who she is. Ryoto is an outsider who just goes with the flow and ends up in the wrong places because of it. Despite Ryoto that is, in many ways, more in touch with who he truly is, his environment has affected him in the way that he just goes along with the situation. In the end, Ai and Ryoto are two people who desperately need the right kind of love, and it often seems like they would find it in each other. The theme of belonging is probably at its most obvious in my favorite character of the movie, Kenta (played by Antony). He's the strength of the crime gang Ryoto is part of. He's the threatening force that makes sure they are not being messed with. But when Kenta finds love, we see his true side and that he is more than just his strength and size.

As serious and as much of a downer as this theme might sound, "Love and Other Cults" is pretty damn fun. You have to remember that this is still part comedy, and that's where the heart comes from. This is what Eiji Uchida brings to his movies that stands out to me. A lot of Japanese movies have quirky comedic things in them, but Uchida blends it in extremely well. It has just the right energy to never get you depressed while remaining grounded enough to make you feel something. In the middle of the movie I might not have noticed that I was getting emotionally attached to Ai and Ryoto because it's such an entertaining movie, but I can't help but admit that I was very touched by the end of the movie.

Behind the street violence (bloodless, might I add), the prostitution and the hopelessness of "Love and Other Cults" you find... you guessed it, love! It's a movie that is filled with heart and care for people, but it knows that for you to think and feel it has to get a little dirty first. And there is no better way than to prove that than to see a group of outcasts that are up to no good, and follow them as they are coming to the understanding that they are nothing without people who care about them.

Positive things:
- It has everything that I have come to expect from Eiji Uchida.
- Fun, interesting characters that we grow to care about.
- The actors involved are all fantastic, but Antony as Kenta really stood out to me for his character.
Negative things:
- The movie is not perfect but I can't think of anything specifically negative that stood out.

Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 1.5/5
Story: 3.5/5
Effects: 0/5
Comedy: 3/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:


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