Love & Peace FILM REVIEW
Release: 13 June 2016 (plus festival screenings in England & Ireland in April – see here)
From: Third Window Films
Director: Sion Sono
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Kumiko Aso, Toshiyuki Nishida, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Eita Okuno.
Ryoichi Suzuki is a loser. He’s bullied relentlessly at work, laughed at by news anchors on television and abhorred by society. He just can’t seem to catch a break. All he wants is to make something of himself, and when he comes across a turtle-vendor during his lunch break he thinks that he’s found it since anything is possible with the small animal by his side. Named Pikadon after the Atomic bomb, the little turtle helps Ryoichi find some happiness in his life, and he confides in the pet that he dreams of becoming Japan’s top musician, selling out the 2020 Olympic stadium, and confessing his love to co-worker Yuko Terajima. That happiness is stopped in its tracks, though, when Ryoichi’s colleagues discover his pet and pressure him into flushing it down the toilet.
After abandoning his beloved pet, Ryoichi is devastated and falls into a pit of despair. Little does he know, that Pikadon has been saved by a mysterious homeless man who has the ability to give abandoned toys and pets the ability to speak. This man then gives Pikadon a glowing gem that gives him the ability to make wishes come true rather than the power of speech. What do you think Pikadon is going to wish for? His master’s happiness of course. The only catch is that as Ryoichi’s wishes grow so too does Pikadon, and Tokyo doesn’t know what’s about to hit it.
If the plot doesn’t sound ridiculous enough already, amazingly director Sion Sono’s film manages to grow even more bizarre. As if out of nowhere, Ryoichi’s life is turned upside down and a chance – albeit slightly pathetic – encounter with a musician sets into motion the events that make those dreams he confided to Pikadon come true. At first unaware of the turtle’s influence, Ryoichi is swept along by the sudden fame and glory he receives, and it quickly goes to his head. Renamed Wild Ryo, frontman for upcoming band RevolutionQ, he forgets his humble beginnings and – even when faced with the true origins of his success – does all that he can to manipulate those around him for his own gain.
This kind of transformation is nothing new in films. In fact, it’s quite a tired trope; little guy gets a taste of power, turns into jerk. But Hiroki Hasegawa’s steady transformation from loser to prima donna is totally convincing, and his versatility as an actor is put to good use. But the film’s charm really stems from his reptilian friend Pikadon, because it’s the turtle’s predicament which is the most moving. Toshiyuki Nishida’s homeless man is a compelling father-figure for Pikadon and the other animals and toys. Even an abandoned pair of toys Maria, an old doll, and Sulkie, a pessimistic cat puppet, are more likeable than Ryoichi, although this is, perhaps, the point.
Sion Sono’s charming and sometimes utterly ridiculous film is quite literally about love and peace – about the love between pet and master, and the peace one can find from being given support by those around you. Of course, it may not seem like that at first, what with the talking toys and Godzilla-like turtles, but that’s what makes the film so funny. There’s barely a moment when there isn’t something to laugh at, and even the repetitive music is enjoyable thanks to Hiroki Hasegawa being such an impressive singer.
The final act ventures into territory so far-fetched it requires the audience to stretch their imagination to new limits. If you can you’re rewarded with some uniquely bizarre comedy. This is all testament to Sono’s skills as a filmmaker who can make the unusual look amazing.
Review by Roxy Simons