Oh Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017) USA | Japan

Reviewed by Madeline Englese, viewed at Metropolitan Theaters, Santa Barbara, CA.

Oh Lucy! is a hero for the mid life crisis. Based on a short film of the same name, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s feature length film debut doesn’t quite deliver in any sense. The unsure drama comedy tells the story of Setsuko Kawashima played by Shinoubu Terjima, a lonely office worker and chain smoker who is past her prime. Just witnessing a suicide on a subway platform, and a retiring coworker get praise from the people who are quick to gossip about her in the same day, Setsuko sees these as the only possible two outcomes for her life. That is until her niece Mika meets with her and convinces her to sign up for English lessons. Upon arriving to the English lessons the unconventional methods used by the teacher Josh, portrayed by Josh Hartnett, creates an alter ego for Setsuko named Lucy, complete with a blonde curly wig and a teenage rebellious attitude. When the instructor disappears back to America, this leads Setsuko on a wild goose-chase to deal with her inner demons.

A midlife coming of age, Oh Lucy! weaves themes of finding yourself, love, loss, cultural divide, and not fitting in, but the themes seem to start and end carelessly throughout the film, as well as the motifs. The movie starts with a powerful black screen and Setsuko humming, only to be picked back up once and never touched again. The cinematography was lackluster and shadowed what could have been outstanding acting. The plot was too thought out, it was overly complicated and crowded. The over complexity took away from the beauty of the story.

Although the film has its shortcomings, there is something remarkably charming about it. There is a genuine connection to the characters and an original story being told, that needs to be told, but it just misses the bar. I can’t say that I wouldn’t watch it again if it came on tv, but I wouldn’t pay money to see it again. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Hirayangi because this almost made it.

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