Updated (18/5/2007): Added music video of the 'Nada So So' song's Chinese version by Joi Chua.
NADA SO SO (TEARS FOR YOU) is directed by Nobuhiro Doi, whose previous film is the highly popular IMA AI NI YUKIMASU. Like that film (which, to me, really isn't as good as its vastly superior TV dorama series), NADA SO SO belongs to the 'Pure/ Innocent Love' (Jun-ai) genre, but different in a sense that it focuses more on sibling love than romantic love. Though obviously, it's still as much as a weepy tearjerker as the other films of this genre.
Just look at the poster above. Can something like that NOT be emo?
Before the beginning of the film, my cousin and I were already making bets on which lead character, the male or the female, will die tragically in the end.
I'll lift the plot summary from IMDB:
8-year old Yotaro gains a 3-year old step-sister, Kaoru, when his mother marries a jazz musician who plays in a club in Naha, Okinawa where they live. Before long Kaoru's father deserts them, and not long afterward Yota's mother becomes terminally ill. Her dying wish is for him to watch out for Kaoru at his grandmother's place on a small island off the coast of Okinawa. He fulfills her wish and becomes very protective of his younger sister who calls him "nee-nee."
Thirteen years later Kaoru (Masami Nagasawa, Crying For Love In The Center Of The World, check out my review) returns to Naha and comes to live with him as she starts high school. Yota (Satoshi Tsumabuki, Haru No Yuki and Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift) works hard making deliveries of vegetables from an open-air market by day, and in a restaurant (he is a licensed chef) by night to save money to fulfill his dream of having his own restaurant. He also assumes the role of pushing for Kaoru's entrance to a university. This allows less time for his beautiful posh girlfriend Keiko, the daughter of a doctor who wants her to follow his footsteps, and preferably without her working class boyfriend.
There are also some complications when Kaoru begins to develop some feelings for her stepbrother that goes beyond pure sisterly love. GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES, this is not.
This film is engaging to watch, but not entirely original (though not something I was expecting in something like this), present day moments intercut with flashbacks of Yota's childhood, where events that happened to him are bittersweet and tragic in an over-the-top manner, like Yota's eloquent speech at her deathbed, kiddie Yota promising to protect toddler Kaoru under a heavy rain but not before Kaoru wandered out of her bedroom in the middle of night to the seaside and weep about missing her stepmom (or was it her home? Can't remember), and more happy moments between the two little kids where they bond and show glimpses of how they become so virtuous as they grow.
I wasn't really moved, but I was fascinated by the tragedy, even darkly amused. I felt bad with myself, and this guilt made me continue watching. Especially as the film went on, and from its original whimsical, lighthearted tone (the present day scenes are actually rather humourous) to its inevitable descent to, well, one tragedy after another. It reminded me of a conversation with Tina, a dear friend of mine from China I met during my days in Perth (she was Justin's flatmate and had a cameo in my short film GIRL DISCONNECTED as Chang-e the Moon Goddess) who firmly believed that Zhang Yimou's TO LIVE is actually a black comedy and not a tragedy. That the important deaths in the film is really to wring out laughter than tears (but then, Zhang's film is pretty satirical).
And this kept me interested, after all, this is a film, which spans five years, is briskly paced, well-acted (both leads were nominated for acting awards at the Japanese equivalent of the Academy Awards, although Masami Nagasawa also earned a nomination for Worst Actress from the Japanese razzies... harsh), has good production values. The cinematography makes Okinawa look as idyllic as some Hawaii-like paradise.
But the best part of the film, to me, was really when folk singer Rimi Natsukawa's hit song of the same title started playing during the end credits. You see, this film is actually based on the song written during a collaboration between BEGIN and Ryoko Moriyama (Moriyama's lyrics are about her memories of her brother who passed away long ago) I heard that her legendary performance of the song famously reduced many audiences to tears when Natsukawa performed it during 2001's Kohaku (a prestigious Japanese music program held every New Year's Eve).
Ryoko Moriyama singing Nada so so (I personally think hers is the best version)
Rimi Natsukawa singing Nada So So
Nada So So film trailer
Joi Chua's Chinese version. 蔡淳佳 <<陪我看日出>>
BTW: Masami Nagasawa's SOOOOOOOO irresistibly cute in this film! The Japanese Razzies are mean.