3 July 2009 | Jay_Exiomo
Overstuffed to a fault, "Futari Biyori" is nonetheless an intermittently amusing and occasionally touching drama about an elderly couple struggling with their emotional connection (or the lack thereof) with each other in the midst of an incurable disease. Director and co-writer Keiichi Nomura's geriatric saga on creating a bond despite the distance -- whether literally or otherwise -- is aided greatly by its strong performances and the romantic setting of Kyoto.
Gen (Asahi Kurizuka) and Chie (Shiho Fujimura) have been married for 45 years, long enough for a rift to develop between the two, which, as implied, is exacerbated by their inability to produce a child. Yet when Chie falls ill with a degenerative muscle disease, Gen finds himself attending to her more, and as if to emphasize on this effort, he hires Shunsuke (Toshiki Gashu), a university student who does street magic on his free time, to cheer her up by teaching her a few tricks, particularly the turning over of Bicycle-branded cards. But Shunsuke has a problem of his own: he's set to go to the US for further studies and his girlfriend Megumi (Meibi Yamauchi) isn't warm to the idea of a long distance relationship.
Hobbled by the soap operatic screenplay of Nomura and Kyoko Ogasawara, plus a calculable denouement, much of "Futari Biyori"'s success rests on Kurizuka and Fujimura's shoulders, whose on-screen chemistry deftly matches their cutesy performances and the rural serenity of the locale that augments the film's permeating warmth, and while ably backed by Gashu, Yamauchi, and Mika Ikenobo as the couple's niece, the supporting cast members are mere footnotes to their senior counterparts. Competently made yet not as affecting as it could have possibly been, it's a handsome handiwork that displays a promise of beauty, yet just like the sakura blossoms that figure prominently in one of its more touching scenes, it's a fleeting display, one that never goes into full ignition.