Love Life follows Taeko (Fumino Kimura), a woman who lives an idyllic life with her husband Jiro (Kento Nagayama) and son Keita (Tetta Shimada). The family’s domestic bliss is cut brutally short by a tragic accident, which brings long-simmering tensions to the surface, exacerbated by the reappearance of Keita’s long-lost father, Park (Atom Sunada). Now homeless, Park is deaf and can only communicate with Korean sign language. As the only person in the area who knows KSL, Taeko volunteers to help Park find the support he needs to get back on his feet, but in doing so, opens emotional wounds old and new.
Love Life tackles a broad spectrum of complex emotions with its intense relationship drama, but something that stands out about its storytelling is the calm, almost gentle way it explores the intricate and uneasy dynamics between its characters. The contrast between the film’s slow, soft presentation and the raw messy feelings that it presents creates a deeply compelling narrative space, immersing its audience in the story and inviting them to fill in the tonal gaps between what the piece is saying and how it says it. It’s a captivating cinematic experience, bolstered by strong writing and some fantastic performances. Fumino Kimura in particular is spectacular as the leading lady, doing an immense amount of heavy lifting to ensure every narrative beat hits as hard as it possibly can.
The film also has some fascinating cinematography, making use of the confined domestic spaces it covers very creatively. While other movies with similar premises or settings might prefer to use the small spaces to create a constantly claustrophobic atmosphere to heighten the tension, Love Life instead often pulls outwards, expanding the apartments and offices it depicts to represent the isolation and othering caused by trauma, using the negative space to reflect the strong feelings that hang in the air and encouraging the audience to involve themselves emotionally to unearth them. There are also some fun visual tricks Kôji Fukada’s feature pulls off with its lighting and angles, reshaping familiar environments in dynamic and interesting ways.
Love Life is a spectacular film. As the title suggests, it’s a celebration of love and life, but it also doesn’t shy away from heartbreak and loss, instead tackling those thorny themes head-on and creating a space for its audience to do so too with its soft but certain hand.
Love Life is released in select cinemas on 15th September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Love Life here: