29 August 2010 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Sweet Little Lies
The film sets you thinking from the onset, and you'll be wondering whether it is a requisite for couples to share common interests in order to bind them together and sustain a relationship. Obviously both Satoshi and Kuriko share very little interests together, which makes it baffling how they managed to hook up in the first place, and staying married without a single quarrel over 3 years and counting. Some of us subscribe to that being a little bit fantastical, and are more convinced that arguments are inevitable and sometimes do lead to a better understanding. You'll also start to wonder if rising costs of living meant a child is out of the picture now, and whether physical intimacy does play that big a role as the glue, here one being unwilling to initiate, and the other being more interested in video games and music and secretly I think yearning the singlehood life where you have the liberty to do what you want, when you want, without consulting anyone else.
Both leads Omori and Nakatani present their stark differences in characters really well, having to sit on the fence in preferring the status quo, yet being unable and unwilling to assert for something more as we can observe from their nuanced performance. As the film alludes to, no relationship can survive without passion nor truth, which the narrative takes this litmus test on. It's different interests in each other in contrast to that of their respective stalkers (at the early point when they come into the picture) who shower their mark with plenty of much needed attention, like Miura (Chizuru Ikewaki) planting ideas onto Satochi with lunches every Wednesdays on her off days to meetings at nights, and Haruo (Junichi Kobayashi) increasingly bumping into Kuriko out of sheer coincidence, attending her bear product show versus her husband's absence which translates to not giving two hoots about supporting his wife, preferring to spend time in a virtual video game world. It's a marriage, or any relationship for that matter, doomed to failure with the writing already on the wall.
Yazaki's film challenges you to pass judgement, and it is this challenge that's not easy to do. You'll be confronted with a very wide incident base and scenes that knock on your beliefs, deciding how guilty is the guilty, and who's to blame in any expected fallout should it happen. On one hand you're provoked to point fingers, yet on the other you're rooting for the couple to somehow work out their differences or face utter destruction in their 3 years of spending their lives together, but despite knowing if it ends it should end, rather than to drag it out. With infidelity being cited as a key reason why couples separate, you want to get in on laying the blame, but only through careful thought as it's easy to point fingers on either, yet it takes two hands to clap.
It confronts your fundamental beliefs in the institution of marriage, especially what constitutes cheating - the desire, of not telling the other if something is not quite what it seems, or the deed itself? Which is more severe, cheating involving the body, mind or both? How do you draw the line, especially if I'm coming from the husband being quite the selfish chauvinist in not wanting to give up a little bit of time off his pursuits to help or support his wife. This in itself could be used as justification why someone will want to stray, then again, if the fundamentals are strong, who would? See the dilemma, which Yazaki continues to present throughout the film. We even hear a warning shot early in the film given by Kuriko, together with plenty of red herring moments, but we again see the double standards practiced.
One of the key questions as the film inches its way to the finale, will be whether the couple can maintain status quo as per the title in keeping their sweet little lies to themselves, or as part of matrimony decide to tell each other the truth. Will they be better off in doing so and living up to an honest relationship, or will ignorance still continue to provide that bliss? We learn guilt has already set in, yet didn't see whether both Satochi and Kuriko will be learning from their lessons. The film raises questions, but you're left on your own devices to provide the answer, which is never immediate. For those in relationships, this film plants that fear factor into you, questioning how much you know and trust someone else, and for those who are not, well, did this film set in motion that a trustworthy relationship is something of a pipe dream?
I'd like to reckon this film like an anti-thesis and companion piece to Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, where a couple meets and contemplates a relationship because their spouses are cheating on them with each other. In this one, we go over to the other side and observe what happens when both spouses cheat on each other, yet remain quite ambivalent about it all, each keeping their own titular sweet little lies. One film is steep in romanticism, while this one presents a frightfully possible reality through its cast performances and composition - cinematography under Isao Ishii is beautiful - that masks the underlying currents of a troubled relationship. Definitely one of the best films I've seen this year!