INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL PREMIERE
She Is Me, I Am Her
ワタシの中の彼女 (Watashi no Naka no Kanojo)
Japan, 2022, 69’, Japanese
Directed by: Nakamura Mayu
Screenplay: Nakamura Mayu
Photography (color): Tsuji Tomohiko
Producer: Asano Hirotaka
Cast: Nahana, Asada Miyoko, Uemura Yu, Urabe Fukako
Date of First Release in Territory: November 26th, 2022
The pandemic has come and largely gone with hardly any pandemic-themed films from Japan. One contrast is the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, a tragedy that has inspired dozens of Japanese films, fiction and non-fiction. Why this should be so is something of a mystery, though one factor is doubtless visual: Actors talking through masks are not exactly cinematic.
So Nakamura Mayu’s four-part omnibus film She Is Me, I Am Her, which takes the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic as its central theme, is an outlier, and a welcome one.
Scripted by Nakamura, the four segments may feature masks, but the pain of her main protagonists, all played by the versatile and accomplished singled-named Nahana, is anything but muffled. The film makes an eloquent case for the value of creatively examining the pandemic’s impact on lives here, both ordinary and not-so-ordinary.
Also, despite their connecting theme, the four segments function well as standalone playlets, with Nahana totally inhabiting four distinctly different characters, in an acting tour de force.
In the first, Among the Four of Us, she is Nanae, one of three frank-speaking friends from a college drama club who have gathered, after a gap of twenty years, in a park at night, but not in close proximity. After they remove their masks and drink a toast, the conversation begins to revolve around an absent club member, Sayoko, whose blossoming acting career was short circuited by scandal. As revelation follows revelation, we see that she unites this trio in ways surprising, revealing and tragic.
In the next segment, Someone to Watch Over Me, Nahana plays a woman who greets a food delivery guy with tears – and asks him to eat the meal she ordered on the spot. As he digs in, she smiles, and a strange bond is formed. Order then follows order, with the same delivery guy always showing the same big appetite. And secrets are revealed, including the reason for the socially awkward heroine’s pleasure in watching someone else chow down
In the third segment, Ms. Ghost, Nahana is a street-wise sex worker who, on her nightly rounds, encounters an older homeless woman (Asada Miyoko). Both once aspired to be actors – they even both played Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull – but fate, including the pandemic, forced them into other, downward paths. Based on a true story, this segment has the scariest, and saddest, denouement of the four.
In the last segment, Deceive Me Sweetly, Nahana becomes a sweet-spirited blind woman visited by a young telephone scammer (Uemura Yu) who says he has come to collect cash promised by the woman’s elderly mother. Before she hands over the money, however, she asks to feel his face. As in the previous stories, there is a twist, one that leads to a satisfying and uplifting conclusion.
Shot on a minimal budget, the film has the feel of actor’s workshop, with the players at one visual remove from the stage. But the quality of the cast is uniformly high, including the opening segment’s Urabe Fukako, who was also superb in Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. Similar to that unjustly overlooked masterwork, another omnibus, She Is Me, I Am Her is both a well-made entertainment and an incisive document of the present moment.
Nakamura Mayu earned an MFA from the Graduate Film Program at New York University. And in 2006 released her first fiction feature, The Summer of Stickleback. In 2012, her documentary Lonely Swallows: Living as the Children of Migrant Workers, won the Grand Prix for documentary features at the Brazilian Film Festival. She followed up with Alone in Fukushima, a documentary about a man caring for animals abandoned following the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Nakamura returned to fiction filmmaking with the 2022 psychological thriller Intimate Stranger and the pandemic-themed omnibus drama She Is Me, I Am Her.
2006 – The Summer of Stickleback
2012 – Lonely Swallows: Living as the Children of Immigrant Workers
2015 – Alone in Fukushima
2019 – Watch Out for the Patriot! – Kunio Suzuki
2021 – Among Four of Us
2022 – Intimate Stranger
2023 – She Is Me, I Am Her