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Film Review: The Lump In My Heart (2022) by Shingo Matsumura

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Film Review: The Lump In My Heart (2022) by Shingo Matsumura

Shingo Matsamura’s gripping drama “The Lump In My Heart” about a student who is challenged by a life-changing diagnosis is based on a script adapted from Yokoyama Takuya’s eponymous stage play, and penned by Takahashi Izumi, producer/ director/ writer who has proved his writing versatility with contributions to genre (“Sunny”, “My Girlfriend is A Serial Killer”, “Kamen Rider Black Sun”, and both installments of “Tokyo Revengers 2”) and dramas (“Kids On The Slope”, “True Mothers”) alike.

When Chinatsu (Yoshida Mizuki) runs into her chidlhood friend and teenage crush Kohki (Okudaira Daiken) at the university campus, she becomes obsessed with something he had said to her a long time ago that made her aware of the male gaze. That particular remark made such an impact on her in the past, that she has developed a permanently complicated relationship to her body. When her breasts come to focus again many years later, due to a medical check-up she is required to do, her emotional trauma switches to another level.

“The Lump In My Heart” is a study of the emotional struggles one young woman is going through upon being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. It is also about the relationship between Chinatsu and her single mother (Takako Tokiwa) who is overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness.

Men are mostly kept in the background, occupying the positions of trust abusers. None of their characters is developed maliciously, and their actions are not extreme. As a matter of fact, they are quite unaware of the damage they are causing to women whose affection they simply fail to notice. One of them, Akiko’s superior from the factory Mr. Kimura, who turns out to be falsely accused of a sexual assault in the past because his attempt to help a woman who suffered a heat stroke was perceived as inappropriate (although guided by a medical helpline). The man is simply blind to any advances. He is just trying to win friends and start anew.

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“The Lump In My Heart” goes further by exploring to which extent health problems impact individuals, but also how the Japanese emotionally buttoned-up culture deals with sick people. There is another single mother who lives in the neighborhood, whose son is intellectually disabled. The youth is bullied by completely unknown people and overlooked for a job as a circus usher which he is perfectly fit to do. In one scene, his mother – unaware of the sinister news, tells Aiko that unlike Chinatsu, her son has no future. The sense of despair and hurt is omnipresent in the movie, but “The Lump In My Heart” can not be called a melodrama. With schmerz finally tuned and dialogues that do not sound like written and memorized words, but as something coming from people’s minds, this is an example of good writing. The awkward comes from awkward situations and awkward people, which are always present in real life as well.

Yoshida who is most famous for her role in the Netflix series “Alice in Borderland” is terrific as Chinatsu. Surprisingly good is also the former pop star Atsuko Maeda (of AKB48) as Akiko’s best friend. Unfortunately, the male actors are not casted to the film’s advantage.

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Movie Review: Marvel Studios and Sony empowers women with “Madame Web”

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Movie Review: Marvel Studios and Sony empowers women with “Madame Web”

Dakota Johnson empowers women through new superhero movie “Madame Web.”

“Madame Web” is a movie worth seeing if you are a fan of Dakota Johnson or the idea of a sarcastic female superhero with precognitive superpowers. 

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This movie comes from Sony and Marvel’s strange crossover of copyright claims. Sony has rights to the Spiderman character and comics, creating movies like “Venom”, “Morbius”, and now “Madame Web”. However, the best-known character, Peter Parker, has been given to the Marvel Universe (MCU). This makes “Madame Web” a movie outside the MCU but potentially adjacent.  

For those who do not know, the movie is set in 2003 and focuses on a 30-year-old paramedic named Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) as well as 3 teenage girls as they are chased by who they call ‘the ceiling man’. The girls, Julia Carpenter played by Sydney Sweeny, Anya Corazon played by Isabela Merced, and Mattie Franklin played by Celeste O’Conner, have amazing wit and sass when dealing with very near-death experiences.  

A man named Ezekiel, played by Tahar Rahim and known as ‘the ceiling man’, is hunting down the girls because he has visions of them killing him in the future. Ezekiel is cursed because he stole a powerful spider from the Amazon when he was there with none other than Cassie’s mom and will do whatever it takes to survive. Including murdering 3 innocent teenage girls. 

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I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, other than the quite rude moviegoers to my left, I was laughing the entire time. The sarcastic comebacks of 3 teenage girls who are hungry and tired make the tense moments lighter. Cassie’s character is set on staying unattached and just surviving but ends up finding a found family and something worth fighting for. 

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Plus, all the wonderful stunt driving is done by Johnson herself. From whipping an ambulance around a tight corner to speeding a taxi through a diner window, she was the one behind the wheel.  

More serious superhero fans have posted about how disappointing this movie was. According to Reason on one review, “It’s incomprehensible superhero-adjacent garbage, but at least the movie seems self-aware about it. There are several scenes devoted to the characters attempting to discern what’s going on—the sort of scenes that would usually serve as tidy exposition dumps—in which generally sensible questions are answered with lines like “What good is science?””  

While I understand that the way this movie introduces the various superpowers is less climatic than MCU favorites, I think it is more focused on the hero’s journey that Cassie and the girls are forced on. They may not be the critically acclaimed Iron Man character; Cassie is a compassionate person who has been avoiding the pain of her past for her whole life.  

I also greatly disagree with ScreenRants review where they say the movie is “rife with overly expository dialogue and lines that sound awkward and unnatural even when delivered by the movie’s biggest stars.” This movie and the actors utilize dry humor and sarcasm, perfect for a story about a pessimistic woman and three teenage girls. 

Maybe this isn’t the superhero movie with huge fight scenes, although the final fight is stunning, it is one full of female rage and empowerment. Maybe it has dialogue that is easy to expect, but the flow made it feel like the audience was closer to the characters.

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I recommend going to watch this new movie, even if it may not fit into any cinematic universe so far, because it is chalk full of witty one-liners, wonderful acting, and healing generational trauma with found family. 

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‘History of Evil’ review: Powerful horror movie is an enjoyable and uncomfortable watch

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‘History of Evil’ review: Powerful horror movie is an enjoyable and uncomfortable watch

History of Evil is a haunted house story with an added layer of hate. In 2045 America has become a theocratic police state. A main figure of The Resistance named Alegre Dyer (Jackie Cruz, Orange is the New Black) has broken out of political prison and reunited with her husband Ron (Paul Wesley, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds) and daughter Daria (Murphee Bloom). The rundown house they have hidden away harbors a dark past that begins to eat away at Ron.

The initial moments paint a dystopian picture that is eerily close to coming into focus in the real worl. Terms like “un-American” are casually thrown around, radio broadcasts attack anyone who thinks differently, and though it is never explicitly stated, the state police seemed to be called the J6, a possible reference to a very real travesty. This immediately gives History of Evil an oppressive atmosphere that never goes away. The now North American Federation is a hostile society run by a misguided sense of nationalism and religion.

Writer-director Bo Mirhosseni was inspired by his parent’s who were activists during the Iranian Revolution and human rights is a major part of his film. In an interesting twist, the bleak setting serves as a backdrop to what is can be described as a straightforward horror movie. Which is not to say that History of Evil downplays its deeper message. Instead, it is a story of all kinds of terror – real and supernatural.

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The tension Mirohesseni creates in the early moments due to political turmoil morphs over the course of the plot. The group are on the run and are always in danger from their pursuers, but their internal struggles ensure the audience never has a chance to breathe easy. The past is as much of an enemy as the J6. Mixed in with some excellent jump scares and tried and trued horror tropes, and History of Evil is a enjoyably difficult watch.

History of Evil comes to Shudder February 23

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New, Old Movie Review: ‘12 Angry Men’ (1957)

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New, Old Movie Review: ‘12 Angry Men’ (1957)

This classic is an important movie for parents to watch with their children for many reasons.

Many centuries ago, Aristotle explained that truth is the mind’s conformity with reality. Defining it is simple; it’s practicing truth that can prove difficult. On a social scale, truth can prove uncomfortable, especially in a world that sometimes demands nonconformity with the most basic of realities. On a personal scale, truth can be obstructed by the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves and about others. 

Nature seeks truth, but nurture is another matter. Nurture — or the failure to properly nurture — can create prejudices and false biases. And these can not only blind us to truth, but wreak havoc on those around us. This is a vital lesson, and I’ve rarely seen it illustrated better than in 1957’s 12 Angry Men.

Though the film broadly fits into the courtroom trial genre, it begins with a twist: we don’t see the trial at all. The story begins at the point where a somnambulant judge is giving instructions to the jury. The bored judge explains that this is a murder trial and that a guilty verdict carries a mandatory death sentence with no chance for clemency. After that, the jury of 12 men walk into a private room to begin the proceedings. Although the jurors don’t realize it at first, each of these 12 men is about to find himself on trial.

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Within just a few minutes, they take an early ballot. Eleven men vote “Guilty.” One man, portrayed by Henry Fonda, votes “Not guilty.”

One juror is particularly annoyed at Fonda’s vote, and doesn’t mind telling him: “Boy, oh boy! There’s always one!”

The jury foreman is polite but condescending: “Perhaps if the gentleman down there who is disagreeing with us … perhaps you could tell us why. You know, let us know what you’re thinking and we might be able to show you where you’re mixed up.”

As each man takes his turn explaining why he voted guilty, it becomes clear that some are afflicted by a blinding bias or outright racism. Outraged that Fonda’s character has had the temerity to suggest that the accused teenager might be innocent, one juror launches into a tirade: “You’re not gonna tell me we’re supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is. Listen, I’ve lived among them all my life. You can’t believe a word they say. You know that. I mean, they’re born liars.”

The operative word in this sentence is “THEM.” But THEM does not just refer to race for all of the jurors. For some jurors, THEM is poor people; for others, THEM is foreigners, or old people or teenagers or tough kids. We progressively discover that, for one juror, THEM is his own son.

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Somewhere in his past, Fonda’s character might have had a THEM, but not by the time we are introduced to him in the jury room. He’s grown sick of the tragic hatred of rash judgment toward others. Fonda fires back to a fellow juror: “I’d like to ask you something. You don’t believe the boy’s story. How come you believe the woman’s? She’s one of THEM too, isn’t she?”

As the story progresses, Fonda implores the jurors that what is considered rock-solid evidence might be only built on sand. The question is whether some of the jurors’ biases will allow them to question what they desperately want to believe.

One of the great geniuses of the movie is that some jurors are not motivated by hatred or even dislike; rather, they are simply attempting to find the truth. They discover that truth can be hard to find, even if you are making a sincere effort to find it. There is a moment in which E. G. Marshall’s stockbroker character sees the truth, and rises above his pride to embrace that truth. Every time I watch that scene, I get a lump in my throat.

The movie also contains a powerful message of forgiveness to one’s enemies. You and I need to hear that message. Years ago, I confessed to my spiritual advisor that I like arguing. He assured me that arguing, per se, is not sinful. Arguing is not necessarily unjust or uncharitable (although those vices can often arise). But he also gave me a piece of advice that I’ve always tried to remember and employ: After the argument, make sure you part as friends. This movie reminds me of my spiritual advisor’s counsel. It’s one I have taught my own children, having watched the movie with all of them. When they’re arguing, I often say, in reference to the film: “Help the old man put his jacket back on.” You will understand what I mean after watching the movie.

I first watched this movie with my dad on a lazy summer afternoon when I was a young teenager. After I saw the first few minutes, I was convinced it would be boring. By the time the ending credits rolled, I was fascinated by the legal system. Since then, I’ve seen the movie at least 30 times. In fact, I try to watch the movie every year to remind myself of the importance of seeking truth — especially difficult truths I’d rather not see.

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This is an important movie for parents to watch with their children for many reasons, but perhaps most of all to illustrate the devastating nature of racism.

There is a narrative that everyone in America is racist; there is a competing narrative that no one is racist. We should object to both narratives because both are wrong. The first view is despairing, as though there is no escape from hatred. But the truth is that God grants us both the free will and the grace to rise above racism — which makes it all the more troubling when one refuses to accept that grace.

But it is absurd — dangerously absurd — to claim that no one is racist. Over the years, I’ve heard my share of racism against various ethnicities. I didn’t hear much racism against Mexicans growing up, but such racism has certainly come into vogue, largely through the broken window of politics. In recent years, I’ve heard friends and associates make demeaning comments to me about Mexicans, which only seem to subside when I inform them that my wife is ancestrally Mexican — and thus, so are my children. Thus, I appreciate this movie on a very personal level.

We parents do not have the luxury of raising our children in an honest world. But you and I can be — we must be — personal examples of both truth and charity. And being that example must entail this: a moral outrage when dishonesty and racism and THEM-ism are championed. Viewing 12 Angry Men with our families can be part of that process.

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