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Hatsu-Koi (First Love)

Film Three Stars

The film is based upon a novel by Misuzu Nakahara who claims that she was involved in the robbery of 300 million yen in the 1960's. Since the statute of limitations has passed, she wrote the book and told her story, and now it's made it to the big screen.

Misuzu doesn't have much of a life, she's isolated and lonely, living for school and not much else, but when she discovers her brother Ryo hangs out in a nearby jazz bar she joins him and starts to get to know his friends and what life is really all about.

The film is quite slow paced and deliberate, but don't take that as a negative. For the most part it's very welcome and suits the film well. There's not a great deal of action, and the slow pace suits the development of the characters.

It's through her brother's friends that Misuzu begins to fall in love and so falls into perhaps the most common trap for a young girl, the manipulative hands of a man.

He slowly builds her towards the big event of the film, the robbery itself, grooming her to carry out the heist itself. It's after the heist that the slower pace starts to irritate. It's as though the film has run out of story to fit into the remaining scenes. There's not much more character development and scenes seem overly stretched. It's here that you realise that a harsher edit could have really helped the film.

The character development is the part that brings some of the nicest moments of the film. There are some lovely tender moments that will bring a smile to the face, touching lines between characters, or the happiness that Misuzu finds through the simple pleasures of growing up. A couple of scenes that do stand out are as she learns to ride a motorbike and the bike puncture parable. Clever, witty, touching, nicely scripted and filmed with a touch of affection for the story.

It's also only the development of Kishi that attracted me, not the ancilary characters or their situations, just of Misuzu and also of the reluctant relationship between Kishi and her.

This relationship is well scripted and acted, and it's interesting to watch how the passage of time affects Kishi's feelings for her. It's well done, again slow, and well grounded.

Overall I enjoyed it, but the ending after the heist is just too slow, and we never receive full closure on the opening events of the film. I really do think that a harder cut could benefit the film, particularly for the end sequences.

UK IMDB Film Details
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Movable Type 3.34