Hana & Alice
Shunji Iwai 2004
It's a tale as old as the hills, or at least as text messaging. Hana and Alice are BFF, doing all the goofy, giddy things together that school age girls do. Then one day on a train Hana spots a tall young man and falls for him. They speculate whether the shorter, geeky guy with his nose in a book is his brother or friend or ..., but the opportunity passes and Hana worships from afar. Time passes, maybe it's a new school year, and the tall one vanishes leaving the bookworm, Masashi. For reasons that weren't clear to me, Hana transfers her affections to him, and when he clumsily knocks himself out (or just down) she revives him and pretends that she is his girlfriend; he must have amnesia, which he accepts and tries to regain his lost memories.
Hana eventually weaves Alice into her tall tales, which develops into a classic triangle with the added delicious twist of the constantly invented past history. This thread of the film is pursued with low key humor and, when it spirals out of control, genuine pathos.
But there is much else in the film, the stories of the everyday lives of Hana and Alice. Hana joins a comedy club and prepares for a school festival, Alice continues ballet lessons. Alice meets with her divorced father for lunch. She is 'discovered' as an actress/model by an agent.
I won't say much more, except that it all ties together in the ending, which is both up- and down-beat. It's a bittersweet and gentle film, with a bizarre premise grounded by the day to day detail of the girls' lives. A bit long, and maybe a bit confusing on first (only) viewing, I'll nonetheless give this one 5 *'s.