foreign films

Nana (ナナ)
Made in: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Kentaro Otani
Starring: Mika Nakashima, Aoi Miyazaki, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yuta Hiraoka, Tomoki Maruyama
Year: 2005

Synopsis: Adapted from the popular Japanese manga (comic book) series of the same title by Ai Yazawa, the story follows the lives of two girls who both happen to share the same name. There's Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki), a bubbly girly-girl who's moving to Tokyo to be with her art-student boyfriend Shoji (Yuta Hiraoka).

And then there's Nana Osaki (Mika Nakashima), the quiet, brooding vocalist of an underground punk band with ambitions of success.

Both meet by chance on a train, and end up as roommates. The story focuses on their struggles with relationships and search for identity. Komatsu's self-centered behavior and clinginess start driving Shoji away, and she also realizes that she can't hold a job.

And Osaki is still silently hurting over the decision to stay with her own band after her boyfriend Ren (Ryuhei Matsuda), who was also her group's bassist, gets recruited by a big-name pop group.

Both girls learn that their clashing personalities and different attitudes toward life complement each other, as they take turns being an unlikely source of counsel for the other.

I'm not familiar at all with the comic book series, so I'm merely writing about Nana as a movie...

The Good: Although this film is definitely for girls, I'm glad to say that the story is pretty sophisticated and it dispenses with a lot of fluff that a chick flick here in America would be known for. Aoi Miyazaki's character definitely looks like the fluffy, frilly, chick flick type, but she's placed in a real-world context that collides head-on with her fair-tale mentality. In doing so, she's made into a multidimensional character.

The outwardly cold but inwardly compassionate and loving punk rocker played by Mika Nakashima is also a fascinating character. Her story is told largely in flashbacks, and again, becomes more in-depth than you'd expect given her rebellious appearance.

The story doesn't talk down to the viewer, and there's an edge to the whole movie that keeps it realistic rather than sickly-sweet. The eccentric characters are stylized just enough to remind you that they're from a comic book, but aren't over-the-top bizarre.

This is a moderately paced, carefully told story that goes in many directions without losing its way in the end.

The Bad: There's an implied lesbian subtext between the two protagonists that isn't sufficiently explored. Looking at this strictly as a movie, I don't think including this helped with defining the characters all that much given the other things that take place.

Who would like this movie: Nana is for you if you're in the mood for a chick flick with complexity and an edge. It's purpose is to entertain, but it isn't as light as other US movies of the same genre.

There's a good deal of psychological depth, and the comic-book feel gives it a nice touch of style. This is a great example of how foreign films can open your mind by taking a different approach to telling a story with familiar themes.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

Thanks for reading the review of Nana. Click here to return to Dramas (M-Z)

Return to Home Page