Shoujyo: An Adolescent

Shoujyo: An Adolescent is the Japanese answer to Lolita. It's the directorial debut of Japanese actor Eiji Okuda (Revival Blues, Deracine) and based on a short story by Mikihiko Renjo. In it, forty-three year-old cop "Tomo" Tomokawa (Okuda) has a torrid affair with fifteen year-old Yoko (Mayu Ozawa). It sounds a lot more perverted than the film actually is, but Okuda stretches the film out so much that any of the passion he intended is soon lost. Shoujyo takes it time to tell the story, relying on long stretches of silence meant to be moody, not good when the source material is a short story.

Okuda and adapters Katsuhiko Manabe (Suri) and Izuru Narushima (Shabu Gokudo) quickly establish Tomo as an unreliable corrupt cop. He sits around all day and does nothing. He runs a few petty scams and sleeps with housewives. This all changes when a young girl walks up to him and asks him to have sex. Tomo believes that she is a prostitute, and tries to pay her. He falls asleep before anything happens, and when he wakes up he finds his wallet intact, along with the money he gave her. Tomo becomes obsessed with locating this girl, resorting to stopping high school girls on the street or inspecting all women in a brothel.

Yoko is closer than he thinks. She works in her grandfather Shozo's (Hideo Murota, Women in the Mirror, Isola: Multiple Personality Girl) funeral parlor. Shozo also tattooed an intricate bird onto Tomo's back year's ago, but never finished. Yoko discovers that a completed tattoo was meant to represent an intimate bond between a man and a woman. Once they find each other, the affair begins in earnest. The secret soon comes out, and society brand Tomo a pervert. He is, but Okuda doesn't focus on this. He wanted to make a film about two very lonely and outcast people who find something beautiful they share. The vast difference in age and taboo nature of their relationship shows how much they need to overcome in order to be together.

The story is pretty simple, but there Okuda throws in some snags to unnecessarily complicate the plot. Yoko and Tomo do not know that they share another connection that soon drives a large wedge into their relationship. It works best when Tomo and Yoko spend time together, quietly content. The imagery of them together (there are very few sex scenes) is beautiful, and also feels very naughty given how young Ozawa looks. But the quiet moments are punctuated by loud interludes, and Okuda manages to make Shoujyo feel pretentiously arty, which it is not. He should have cut at least half an hour from the film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, 12 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexuality, and some language, probably an NC-17 due to extremely adult themes.

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