In Yuya Ishii’s drama, happiness gradually finds you – if you let it.
“There’s nothing good happening for me here.”
It’s not often you get a film adaptation of a literary work that isn’t a comic book or a novel. Maybe a memoir will show up, usually around Oscar season, or something strange and mythic like The Green Knight but you almost never see films based on contemporary, modern poetry. Probably because modern poetry isn’t a medium that lends itself to the medium of film. Enter Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, based on the collection of poems by Tahi Saihate (whose work I will admit to have not read), and whose content is – despite all this – incredibly coherent and narratively satisfying.
Our dual protagonists are Shinji (Sosuke Ikematsu) and Mika (Shizuka Ishibashi). Both are socially awkward, with Shinji seemingly never able to say the right words (or the right amount of worse), and Mika constantly focused on the subject of death. Both also struggle to make something of themselves, in a world that doesn’t care for them in the slightest. Because of this, they are perpetually short of money. By night, Mika works at a bar, and sends the money back home, and Shinji barely gets by on his pitiful builder’s salary. Through a few coincidences, they encounter each other a few times over the course of several days, and a friendship begins to develop – though it is not without its difficulties.
Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is a film that gets by almost entirely on its lead characters, their interactions with each other and their reactions to the harsh realities of life. Owing to its poetic source material, the movie prefers to capture character moments, emotions and scenes that paint something resembling a narrative, but without adhering to typical standards. Typically this style runs the risk of getting a touch too artsy, but Ishibashi and Ikematsu deliver in spades, with performances that keep everything grounded.
The film’s almost dreamlike pacing works to its advantage. It never tries too hard to stick to the three act structure, but never eschews the story in favour of style. The end result is a movie that more interested in making you feel what the characters feel and, with any luck, even remember moments when you were in those shoes. Director Yuya Ishii matter of fact style of shooting, eschewing creative flourishes in favour of realism, helps sell this. You may or may not have been anything like our heroes, but the situations still feel familiar.
Tokyo Night Sky brings up the subject of meaningless miracles; small coincidence and unlikely happenings that the characters claim have no purpose. The film argues otherwise, instead offering a counter point that the two leads wouldn’t have been able to move past – or at least acknowledge – their trauma and issues without the other person being there. There are ten million people in Tokyo, and that they found each other is a miracle – and not a meaningless one.
The film often asserts that anything can change in the blink of an eye. A friend, or partner, can suddenly keel over and die. You could lose your job (but score a hot date with a convenience store clerk). A busker can go from singing to a crowd of zero to being on the side of a bus. Life comes at you hard, and fast, but the way you deal with it is up to you.
Verdict: Strikingly real, relatable and thoughtful, Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue works as a standalone piece of fiction, and as a collection of fleeting feelings.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Sex: A big stack of lesbian porn/10
Emotional maturity: 0/10
Phones: People are too busy looking at their phones to notice blimps. Sad.
Nudists: Probably don’t go jogging
Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017)
Also known as: 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (Yozora wa itsu demo saikō mitsudo no aoiro da)
Director: Yuya Ishii
Writers: Tahi Saihate (poems), Yuya Ishii
Shizuka Ishibashi – Mika
Sosuke Ikematsu – Shinji