Made as part of the Love Collection (a compilation of films centred around the theme of love) in 2004, Yuki Tanada’s ‘Moon And Cherry’ is an accomplished debut that looks at love, sex and relationships in a sweet, humorous and often oddly Japanese way. In fact, the film is probably more bittersweet than outright sweet but is nevertheless a touching look at some youngsters coming to terms with their experiences (or lack thereof) with love and sex.
Tadokoro (Nagaoka) is a naïve young man who, on his third time of trying, has got into university. In a bid to find a club to be a part of and thus meet people, he joins the university’s erotic writing club. Made up of a group of misfit guys and one girl, the club writes erotic short stories to compile into a book they will sell on campus. Said girl, Mayama (Eguchi), takes a shine to Tadokoro and no sooner has he said hello to her Mayama also takes Tadokoro’s virginity. Soon the new would be couple are on some kind of sexual odyessy: Mayama using their lovemaking as inspiration for her writing while Tadokoro quickly develops feelings beyond just the carnal for the budding novelist. Complications further arise when Tadokoro becomes somewhat of a “ladies man” and Mayama’s sexual experimenting on poor Tadokoro becomes stranger and stranger (not to mention comical). Is it just sex, or are these two actually made for one another?
Far from conventional but devoid of any pretension or melodramatics, ‘Moon And Cherry’ is an amusing and emotive look at young love. Shot on DV the cinematography is nevertheless excellent (despite the slight unfortunate grubby effect DV gives everything) as Yuki Tanada raises above her slight budget to craft a lovely (albeit in a slightly odd way!) little film. The themes of love and sex are handled with gentle care, as the message of while sex is important it’s not everything is maturely put across by an accomplished cast. The two leads, Nagaoka and Eguchi, are particularly effective as the love struck and writing obsessed youngsters. Eguchi makes Mayama a character we care for despite her often-harsh nature and without resorting to the old cliché of that she is actually damaged inside to excuse her actions. She is someone still learning and discovering much like the other characters despite her considerable experience. Likewise, Nagaoka is excellent as the innocent Tadokoro infusing the character with a strength and likeability despite his fragility. It’s refreshing to see two young adults in a modern Japanese world presented as real and likeable human beings.
Tanada balances the themes and tone of the film well handling certain sexual practices with subtle and often-comical care and never letting them descend into dark despair even when proceedings take a serious emotional turn in the final section of the film. It may not be to everyone’s taste but ‘Moon And Cherry’ is a little heard of gem, which features excellent performances and a mature view on some serious and saucy subject matter.
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