IFFR Review: Aristocrats


DIRECTED BY

Yukiko Sode

STARRING

Mugi Kadowaki, Kiko Mizuhara, Kengo Kora, Shizuka Ishibashi, Rio Yamashita, Guin Poon Chaw, Kenta Satoi, Yukiko Shinohara, Kei Ishibashi and Takashi Yamanaka

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SYNOPSIS

Hanako is in her late twenties and is looking for stability with her man. She gets dumped instead. She begins dating. Miki studied and worked hard to get to where she is and is holding down a job. They are introduced through an intermediary man.

Hanako, born to sheltered privilege in Tokyo, is in her late twenties when her fiancé breaks off with her, and for the first time in her life finds herself at a crossroads. After a round of unsuccessful ‘arranged-marriage’ meetings and blind dates, she meets Koichiro, the lawyer scion of a wealthy family. However she learns that there’s another woman in his life named Miki and the two encounter each other over the same man, and their different worlds come into contact.

Aristocrats is a film adaptation of Mariko Yamauchi’s novel of the same name, which is adapted and directed by Yukiko Sode. The film follows two women, Hanako Haibara and Miki Tokioka. Hanako, who was born and raised in a family of wealth and privilege, is in her late-twenties in Tokyo when her fiancé beaks off their engagement. As her parents force her to be setup through an arranged-marriage, she has rounds of dates with no success until she meets Koichiro, a young lawyer that also part of a wealthy, political family. Miki however is born and raised in a small town outside of Tokyo, who works hard to get into an exclusive university in the city. At thirty-two-years-old with no boyfriend, she’s still managing to scrape by living alone in the big city. The two women will encounter each other over the same man, and their different worlds will come into contact.

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The film provides an interesting scope into gender and class in a society that feels somewhat dated within a modern and progressive world. After being suddenly dumped by her fiancé at in her late-twenties, Hanako’s family, for the most part, are freaked out by this revelation and end up pressuring her into finding a husband sooner rather than later through arranged marriage. The reason for such a rush is that many within their upper-class circle are already settled down, as is expected, and this leads to a string of awkward and disastrous dates. So whenever she meets Koichiro for the first time, she falls head-over-heels by the end of the date, though there’s two catches: 1) he’s the son of a wealthy politician and 2) he’s secretly been seeing an old college classmate, Miki. Miki is on the opposite of Hanako’s class, growing up in a working-class family in the countryside whose determination and smarts lead her to living in the big city. We see how the two women live their lives, particularly with Koichiro, as Hanako feels alienated with him when they’re together, while Miki experiences the freedom without being officially attached to him. It’s two vastly different journeys to follow, but whenever they inevitably meet each other, it’s a very refreshing approach to how you would expect that kind of encounter to play out. The film is well directed by Yukiko Sode, with some lovely cinematography work by Yasuyuki Sasaki, particularly with how they capture the landscape of Tokyo in certain scenes.

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Mugi Kadowaki and Kiko Mizuhara both gives good performances as Hanako and Miki, with the former having to find a way to be herself within what’s expected of her, and the latter having to break through the barrier of classism to match her ambition. While the film has a message to tell in regards to social classes and how women are presented, you do feel the films runtime, especially in the second half. That shouldn’t be a surprise though as the film is over two hours long, and you’ll feel it. Some of the dialogue also weakens the film somewhat, with it either feeling slightly cliche or over-explaining something so it registers with the audience.

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VERIDCT

Aristocrats is a decent drama from Yukiko Sode, with good performances by Mugi Kadowaki and Kiko Mizuhara.

★★★