Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Chiwawa - Fantasia 2019 Movie Review

The Movie: Chiwawa

The Director: Ken Ninomiya

The Cast: Shiori Yoshida, Mugi Kadowaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Ryô Narita, Kan'ichirô Satô, Nijirô Murakami, Tadanobu Asano, Tina Tamashiro,

The Story: In Tokyo, Chiwawa is a popular girl. One day, her body is found in Tokyo Bay. Chiwawa's friends gather to remember her, but they realize they do not know anything about her like her real name or her background.

The Review:
Ken Ninomiya's emotionally charged film is based off of Chiwawa-chan, a 1996 manga created by Kyōko Okazaki, so I guess you could say this is a comic book movie. While there are no super powered heroes and villains battling it out for control of the planet, there are plenty of young Tokyo socialites living out every excessive moment like it might be their last. The story revolves around a 19 year old named Chiwawa who joins a group of friends for a crazy adventure and ends up on a roller coaster ride through life that ends with her untimely and gruesome death.

Now, that isn't a spoiler, it's the basic set up for everything that follows. After the tragic event, which is shown revealed through news clips, we see Chiwawa's friend Miki catching up with members of the group to try and piece together just who the mysterious Chiwawa was and how she ended up literally in pieces at the bottom of Tokyo Bay. Most of the story is told through flashbacks which are set up by the conversations and it's really interesting to see the various relationships between both Chiwawa and the group as well as Miki and the group as a lot of them aren't real comfortable with how she is digging up the past.

Ninomiya tells the story with lots of style, bold colors, and a soundtrack that is just as beautiful, trendy, and recklessly carefree as the characters themselves. He also did a great job of filling the movie with a diverse roster of actors whose personalities are just as vibrant as the roles they are playing with the highlight of course being Shiori Yoshida who plays the title character. Her infectious smile and charisma are a perfect fit for Chiwawa's engaging and enigmatic personality and she plays every moment with an energy that is impossible to take your eyes off of.

Mugi Kadowaki as Miki has the most screen time and the most challenging role as the character is a connective thread between everyone else and each relationship, whether it be friend, lover, or acquaintance, comes with a unique set of challenges. Most of them aren't real happy that Miki is digging around for answers and details about Chiwawa's life mainly because she is working with a magazine writer who is preparing a story about the murdered girl. The writer, whose name is Yuko, is played by none other than Chiaki Kuriyama who most will remember as Gogo from Kill Bill.

It was really easy to get emotionally invested in these characters as the story had a level of intimacy that out you right there in the middle of everything. There is a moment in the film where Chiwawa and Miki are in a swimming pool sharing a very quiet and loving moment that sort of defines the emotional heartbeat of the movie itself. Meanwhile, a raging party is going on in the other rooms of the house and the chaos that is swirling around them shows just how out of control their lives really were.

The Verdict:
Chiwawa is an emotional roller coaster of youthful exuberance and a look into a social media driven culture that has changed how we communicate and how we see ourselves, each other, and the world we live in. Beautifully filmed and expertly crafted, this is an unexpectedly complex story filled with moments and characters that will stick with you for a long time.

Chiwawa is an official selection of the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

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