Film Review: Au revoir l’été

Article By Joy Chiang Ling
Photo credit Niko

Au revoir l’été, which translates to “Farewell Summer,” is a sweet, subdued romance film written and directed by Koji Fukada. The romance genre, popularized by the likes of The Notebook and Titanic, is often characterized by passionate drama trying to induce heavy emotions in its viewers. Au revoir l’été is different. It does not rely on fiery conflicts and melodramatic characters to show love – it forges romance subtly, without the use of tears, shouting or stirring music.

Au revoir l’été is just as much a coming-of-age story as it is a romance. Its heroine, Sukako (Fumi Nikaido), is a young girl who spends her summer at a coastal resort with her aunt, Mikie (Mayu Tsurata). There, she meets a Fukushima exile named Takashi (Taiga Nakano), the nephew of Mikie’s sister’s friend. Together, they face moral dilemmas, broken friendships, and uncertain futures. Their paths intertwine, and the two find themselves becoming wiser upon the conclusion of the summer season.

Perhaps the most recognizable scene from the film, and anything that even remotely resembles a romantic cliché, shows Sukako dipping herself into a lake, causing it to ripple. Takashi looks on, captivated. Moments like these are what make the chemistry between the two characters admirable. Other scenes are spent exploring the ethics of love hotels and nuclear power plant protests, which coincide with the growth of both their relationship and their individuality.

This film is pleasant for those who have the patience to watch it. It is slow-paced, and the relatively peaceful setting does not give rise to much action. In addition, the dialogue tends to be long-winded. A lot of time is spent listening to characters talk about their interests and history as they walk along the shores of a picturesque beach. The excitement does not reveal itself until much later in the narrative. The film, however, is kept alive by the endearing performances of its actors and its charming attention to small details.

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