Monday, August 09, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Remain in Twilight

Suppose Kevin Costner showed up for the reunion in The Big Chill. That is basically what Kazuki Yoshio did. His five friends cannot explain his presence (neither can he), but they aren’t complaining. While they have time together, they try to say the things they left unsaid and complete some unfinished business in screenwriter-director Daigo Matsui’s Remain in Twilight, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Yoshio is generally enjoying hanging with his pals Kinichi Fujita, Tetsuya Akashi, Taku “Sauce” Sogawa, Taisei Tajima, and Yusaku Mizushima, but he is troubled by a nagging question: didn’t he die five years ago? Well, to be technical about it, yes, he did. Nevertheless, here he is, rehearsing their [in]famous school dance number, clad in unflattering red loincloths.

Needless to say, the dance gets a rather mixed reaction from wedding guests, but they are determined to double-down and perform it again at the reception. However, that leaves them several hours to kill. Eventually, they start to address the elephant in the room, as well as their lingering guilt and grief. Yoshio will also have a chance to finally express his feelings to Mickie, the classmate he always carried a torch for.

In the film, Yoshio’s mates keep saying everything should have ended after his big scene with Mickie—and they are probably right about that. Instead, the film gets a little too lost in metaphysical symbolism, but not so far that it totally undermines all the good will the film previously generated. For the most part, Matsui’s magical realism is sly, understated, and remarkably endearing.

There is some naughty yet gentle humor in
Twilight, but it could also be prescribed as efficacious therapy. It is a deeply humanistic film. The six co-leads are each distinct in their neurotic dysfunction, but always in ways that are acutely human and pardonable. They are all very well cast, especially Kisetsu Fujiwara as the everyman Tajima and Rikki Metsugi as the working class Mizushima, but Atsuko Maeda blows all the lads away in her pivotal scene as Mikie.

works best when Matsui keeps things grounded, but fortunately he does so for about eighty percent of the film. During the majority of its running time, it is something kind of quietly special. Highly recommended, Remain in Twilight screens as an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.