I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole– (things we wish were spoken by) Morgan Freeman
(Editor’s Note: This movie is streaming on Amazon Prime in some countries, and on Dekkoo in the US. Our review is based on the Blu Ray DVD Japanese release)
—Edited by TheFNGee
These were the lines playing through my mind as I solemnly watched the latest hot serving of the Japanese BL Movie “His.” Can anyone be so ignorant about their own feelings and sexual identity that they turn it into a mid-life crisis? Clearly, Hibino Nagisa does because his entire journey has been a well-scripted lie, which he chooses to live. From breaking up with high school sweetheart Igawa Shun to getting married and having a kid, the entire storyline converges on Nagisa’s misguided notions of “A Perfect Life.” But you can only live a lie so far, and frustrations are bound to unsettle a carefully constructed mirage.
Director Imaizumi Rikiya’s effort to create a narrative about two college lovers meeting after ages and how their worlds collide is praiseworthy. The movie’s story highlights the fear and anxiety that the “Coming Out” phase entails and the importance of family and societal acceptance. The story is coupled with a little girl’s insistence on battling her father’s inner demons and is a poignant portrayal of emotions, pain, and struggles that leave you high strung and vulnerable. The characters in this film are flawed, yet you find yourself sympathizing with them and invariably get drawn to their stories.
The handsome Miyazawa Hio portrays main lead Igawa Shun. Igawa was in love with his childhood friend Hibino Nagisa who decides to break up as they are about to graduate. Years later, he is working as an organic farmer and is an absolute loner. Igawa’s quiet life is turned upside down when Nagisa returns to their hometown with his daughter.
Fujiwara Kisetsu portrays the other main lead Hibino Nagisa. His search for a “Normal Life” leads him away from his true love Shun. However, years later, he returns to repent and make up for his past mistakes while fighting a custody battle for his daughter with his ex-wife.
Set against the backdrop of a quiet town, HIS follows the journey of loner Igawa Shun. During high school, Shun first met and fell in love with his friend Nagisa during their first year. However, when they are about to graduate from university, Nagisa tells him that he can’t see a future with Shun. They decide to break up despite Shun’s strong feelings for Nagisa. The movie is centered on the revival of their relationship as Nagisa returns home with his six-year-old daughter, Sora. They both go through an emotional bender as Nagisa rediscovers his feelings and explores the extent of his emotions for Shun. At the same time, he continues to battle for custody of Sora with ex-wife Rena.
Can Shun forgive Nagisa for the pain he caused him in the past and for disturbing his quiet present?
Will Nagisa finally realize what an asshole he’d been and admit his mistakes?
What will fate await Sora as she gets caught in the tug of war between her parents?
Will the people of Shun and Nagisa’s small-town accept their blossoming relationship?
My Thoughts of the Movie
Miyazawa Hio’s portrayal of Igawa Shun is solemn, and as you accompany him on this journey, you connect with the character in quite a few ways. Igawa has spent an entire lifetime trying to forget his ex-boyfriend Hibino Nagisa. So imagine his surprise when the said ex-lover lands up at his doorstep with his daughter and seeks refuge. I was pretty shocked by Nagisa’s behavior because he is either oblivious to Shun’s discomfort or just shameless about his indiscretions. Either way, his acceptance of being “bisexual” leaves you with more questions than answers. Shun seems hapless in this scenario because although he can’t wholeheartedly accept the situation he has been thrust into, his love for Nagisa takes precedence over the hurt he feels.
Hibino Nagisa is a grey character with too many shades, and I don’t think anyone else could have played this role as well as Fujiwara Kisetsu did. Nagisa has some seriously misguided notions about living a normal life, which according to him, is only possible if he lives as a “real man.” His definition comprises getting married to a woman he doesn’t love, having a child with her, and then cheating on her with innumerable men because he can’t appease his “gay” urges. I’m wondering how this classifies him as bisexual when it seems clear that he enjoys sex with men more than women. This character is so flawed and inconsistent that Nagisa reminds you of “Ito Akira” from the series Life Senjou No Bokura 線上の僕ら.
The characters Shun and Nagisa have good chemistry, but it would have been better if the movie had given more background on how their relationship developed originally. However, since the primary focus remains on familial acceptance and forgiveness, their romance is expected to be a “given.” Nagisa’s dynamics with his ex-wife Hibino Rena are interesting. Although Rena has custodial battles with Nagisa, her character is just as equally flawed. Not entirely negative, though, Rena is more career-oriented, and her efforts to parent Sora would are inadequate. Despite that, her insistence on winning the custody stems from the anger she still holds from all the lies spewed by her ex-husband, who broke her trust.
The real star of this movie is Sora Hibino, played by Sotomura Sakura. Sora is an absolute joy to watch as the little girl conveys knowledge and wisdom that her parental units so obviously lack. I was pleasantly surprised when she confronts Shun about his decision to leave town and asks, “Shun likes Papa, Papa likes Shun. Why is that weird?” She completely accepts her father’s relationship with another man. She even gives Shun the courage to accept his sexuality and his love for Nagisa in front of the townspeople. She yet again becomes a beacon of light when she questions her father about his refusal to apologize to her mother for his transgressions. Sora’s life is simple, and her innocent ways help both her father and her mother come to an amicable agreement.
The focus of the movie at this point remains on Nagisa’s repentance. He is confused about his sexuality. Although he doesn’t admit his love for Shun until Rena drags Sora away, you experience his conflicted emotions and wonder why Shun chooses to stand beside such a messed up man. But love wins over the mind as you watch them argue, admit their feelings and even admit their gay relationship in the court proceedings. That was pretty shocking to me because although I’m unaware of Japan’s divorce laws, they would certainly not be amicable to gay couples. Their obvious love for each other makes Rena reconsider her stand and gives Sora the chance to grow up in a stable environment with both her fathers.
Another surprise with this movie was the townspeople’s attitude towards Shun and Nagisa’s relationship. They both lived in constant fear of rejection, which is an unfortunate reality most of the time. However, the town seniors accept their relationship easily as well as their persistence to raise little Sora. I’m guessing the motive was to shed light on how wrongly we judge the people in our life without giving them the chance to understand our stance.
Shun and Nagisa’s love story is far from perfect and is riddled with negative themes, but one of the film’s strongest points remains in its portrayal of acceptance, for which both of them yearned. Shun spent an entire lifetime waiting for Nagisa to accept him as his partner while Nagisa battled his demons against societal pressures. There are some parts where the film seems to drag, but it’s an intense portrayal of the present society. So grab some popcorn because the movie is 2 hours long, find some cushions, sit down and dive into Shun and Nagisa’s world as they navigate their way through turmoil and find their way back to each other.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars [See our Review Guide]