The 2 1/2 hour journey is based on the path of Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara) and takes place over the course of several years. Being average and shy, he is the frequent object of bullying. He lives with his pregnant mother, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's son. As both adults work to support the family, Yuichi is left to his own devices often, as are most of his peers, which can be dangerous during an age when you are usually trying to get away with as much as possible.
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with Yuichi's situation, he finds himself in a consistent state of depression. Of course he is stuck in a small town whose main hangout is a scrap yard, so avenues to release the tension are few and far between. He finds solace through the sympathetic music of Lily Chou-Chou and an online chat room cultivated by her fans. Beyond an occasional shoplifting excursion, he doesn't really rebel. In fact, his passivity is irritating, and you wonder just what could provoke him to anger.
Though we never meet Lily Chou-Chou, Iwai chooses to her lyrics of her music through the everyday speech of her listeners. This provides a stronger emotional basis for these teens that perfectly complements their confused and frustrated stares. The musical subtext also provides a poignant, intangible articulation of youthful turmoil. Along with the Internet culture associated with it, this builds a provoking but nonjudgmental commentary about the ways in which teens may escape communication.
There are also some impressive new plot twists to the otherwise overflowing genre of teen dramas. Bullies are characterized by a cruel attitude and not through a muscular physique. There aren't specific reasons why these kids act the way they do, their violent actions aren't simply blamed on domestic issues. There aren't easy answers or solutions to the situations that the characters find themselves in. If a 14-year-old girl thinks of men as "customers," what else could be in store? Anything can happen. This is why the early teens are a nerve-wracking time in life, and that's what keeps this film universally engaging.
On the other hand, Lily didn't have to be the lengthy essay it was. There are repetitive scenes of peer violence, and where they eventually escalate in cruelty, it's not necessary to have the sheer number that are included. What makes up for some of the drag on the attention span is that the camera captures the beauty and claustrophobia of the atmosphere with few flaws.
The DVD includes a making-of featurette and a music video for the central song in the film.
Aka Riri Shushu no subete.
All about my Walkman.
Run time: 146 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 6th October 2001
Distributed by: Cowboy Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Shunji Iwai
Producer: Naoki Hashimoto
Screenwriter: Shunji Iwai
Starring: Hayato Ichihara as Yûichi Hasumi, Shugo Oshinari as Shusuke Hoshino, Ayumi Ito as Yôko Kuno, Takao Osawa as Tabito Takao, Miwako Ichikawa as Shimabukuro, Izumi Inamori as Izumi Hoshino, Kazusa Matsuda as Sumika Kanzaki, Ryo Katsuji as Terawaki Shioske, Yu Aoi as Shiori Tsuda
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