18x2 Beyond Youthful Days

European Premiere| In Competition

 

Some say that watching a film is the cheapest way to travel. If that is the case, 18x2 Beyond Youthful Days is the best travel deal of the year, because it takes audiences on a beautiful journey through both Taiwan and Japan for just the price of one ticket.

Based on a real viral travelogue blog by Jimmy Lai (who has also novelised the blog to coincide with the film’s release), 18x2 is an ambitious Japan-Taiwan co-production that successfully avoids all the pitfalls of cross-cultural co-productions. The result is easily one of the best commercial romances from Asia this year.

Co-written and directed by Fujii Michihito, who has become one of Japan’s most sought-after filmmakers since the critical success of The Journalist (2019), 18x2 is part travelogue and part memory piece. When the film opens in the present, we see Jimmy (Hsu Kuang-han) going home to Tainan after being fired from the game company he co-founded. When he finds an old postcard from a Japanese woman named Ami in his old room, Jimmy decides to take a trip across Japan via local trains (though not explicitly explained in the film, the original blog involved the Seishun 18 kippu, a budget five-day train pass for unlimited travel on commuter trains). On the impromptu journey, he visits various destinations in the Japanese countryside and makes new friends as he slowly but surely makes his way to his planned destination: Ami’s hometown.

The grey, wintry tone of the present shifts to a warm summery tone as the film flashes back to 18 years prior, when Jimmy was still a young man living at home and working a summer job in a run-down Karaoke box joint in the suburbs of Tainan. One day, Japanese traveller Ami (Kiyohara Kaya, One Second Ahead, One Second Behind) arrives at the Karaoke joint to ask for a job after she lost her wallet. Jimmy becomes immediately smitten with her, but will she fall for him? Both the blog and the film reference Iwai Shunji’s romance Love Letter (1995), which was a sensation across Asia at the time of release. Indeed, 18x2 does evoke memories of Love Letter, especially with its parallel plot structure and theme of lost romance. While 18x2 doesn’t reach the emotional height of Iwai’s modern classic, Fujii deftly manages to meld two films – a cute cross-cultural romance and a somber road movie – into a coherent film that is funny, romantic and poignant. Fujii and his co-writer Hayashida Hirokawa resist the temptation of over-writing the story, giving their amusing supporting characters just enough to make an impression without taking attention away from the film’s core, the bourgeoning relationship between Jimmy and Ami. Even big-name cameos like Joseph Chang (as a Taiwanese restaurant owner in Japan), Kuroki Haru (as a net café employee) and Kuroki Hitomi (as Ami’s mother) don’t distract from the story, because they all play small, but important roles on Jimmy’s journey.

Like most great romances, the success of 18x2 ultimately comes down to its two stars.

The breakout star of TV series Someday or One Day and Chung Mong-hong’s A Sun, Hsu plays Jimmy as a cool and shy introvert without losing his charm. Miles away from her breakthrough role in screwball comedy You’re Not Normal, Either, Kiyohara simply radiates as the warm and lovely Ami. Despite their language barrier (Hsu does most of the work by doing a large number of his lines in Japanese), the two stars share great chemistry. I dare anyone to not root for Jimmy and Ami when he finally has the courage to do something as simple as ask her out to a movie.

Kevin Ma
Film director: FUJII Michihito
Year: 2024
Running time: 124'
Country: Taiwan
27/04 - 7:10 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
27-04-2024 19:10 27-04-2024 21:14Europe/Rome 18x2 Beyond Youthful Days Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery