There are few directors from whom you know what you are going to get and one of them is famous Japanese director Sion Sono. With over 50 projects under his belt, and those being just movies without including TV Series and other segments, he is one that you know will deliver and that you will not help but enjoy what he does.
Also expect to be majorly disturbed!
With the likes of Love Exposure, Tokyo Vampire Hotel, Himizu, Suicide Club, Exte and Antiporno, to mention but a few, he has already established his language and place in Cinema! No matter where you are, if you are into Foreign cinema, chances are that you have watched at least one of his movies.
His latest entry, THE FOREST OF LOVE, has his signature all over it! Unlike Hollywood, Japan gives their directors full control so even if this new entry in Mr. Sion Sono’s rap sheet is a NETFLIX original, you will be hard pressed to find any differences, as in benefits of releasing a Netflix exclusive film. Lover Exposure is already over 3 hours so this movie being 2h30m is no shock. Now of course Japanese movies are usually capping out at 1h50m so you could say maybe Netflix helped him out in runtime but I doubt it.
Twists, length, rawness, these are some things you expect in almost all of Sion Sono’ movies. But there is something else too, yuri! Some of his movies usually have yuri so even if I don’t see any in the trailers, I always check out his movies because there is almost usually a surprise in there.
Such surprise is the case in THE FOREST OF LOVE.
The yuri being a surprise means that it is not major and thus it only takes up a small portion of the screen time. In fact, it was only in the flashbacks and imagine this being a 2 ½ hour movie, that is nothing.
But something that makes it worth it is the fact that the yuri is actually an important plot point and when it is finally revealed, during the twist ending, it does put a smile on your face! Now, seeing as this is mainly not a yuri story, this post is not going to be long so I might as well jump straight into it.
As usual, this is spoiler heavy so if you are new and don’t want to be spoiled, stop right here and go watch the movie. It is on Netflix as I said so it won’t be that hard for you to find it.
So then, what’s the story about? The points of importance go in this order; There are three friends whose dreams are to make movies. And so, they hatch a plan to make their first movie. Along comes a girl named Taeko, she has a limp going and you just know that there is a story there we shall soon be finding out about.
Taeko then tells the wannabe directors of an innocent young woman that she knows, who she wants the guys to get out of her shell or being a shut-in, or hikikomori, as they are called in Japan. When they go to the said young woman’s house, it becomes apparent that the woman, Mitsuko, has a history with Taeko.
During this time we learn that with the two, there was another woman who was close with them, the two call her Romeo for some reason. The way Taeko talks about Romeo, she is obviously dead and while Taeko seems to have moved on from the tragedy, Mitsuko has not, hence the shut-in condition.
She wasn’t always like that. She used to be an energetic girl and outgoing, and we find this out during the flashbacks to 1985 when the girls were still in high school and they were free. By this time, it is obvious that Mitsuko had it bad for Romeo. We also find out during the flashbacks that the reason they called her Romeo was because they were planning to put on a Romeo and Juliet play for the school festival that summer and Mitsuko was to play Juliet opposite of Romeo.
The girl was so into the role the everyone just started calling her Romeo.
Back to the present, Mitsuko turns down the offer to star in the guys’ movie and we soon find out that it was all because of Taeko that she refused. But before then, Mitsuko gets a surprise call from some man who claims to owe her 50 yen and he is adamant about returning it to her. Everything about him sounds sketchy and Mitsuko suspects but she eventually caves in and agrees to meet him to get that 50 yen coin.
The guy turns out to be a womanizer and manages to make Mitsuko fall for him but other than being a player, he is also a conman. He has been with almost every woman in the area including Taeko and not only Taeko’s own sister but her mother as well!!!
When Taeko learns that he was after Mitsuko, she tries to save her a la Kairi with Yuri in that drama that shan’t be named, where she offered herself up to the beast so that the lamb can be spared. But like that time, it is useless this time too because Mitsuko seems too taken with the C-man that Taeko can do nothing.
Also, Mitsuko must have gotten motivated to be with him even more when she leaned that Taeko wanted to save her from him. While Taeko seems to have positive feeling towards Mitsuko, Mitsuko had this animosity towards Taeko, but it does gets explained in the twist toward the end and we will get back to it.
Back to the story, C-man catches wind of the movie making business and how the guys are making a movie about him, having found out that he is a shady person, and most likely a serial killer, they decide to make a movie about him and Mitsuko being in lust with him, she too gets involved eventually.
Meanwhile in the background, there is a serial killer who kills young women and leaves them out in the forests. Everyone believe it to be this conman, but we shall find out later during the twists reveal ending that it was someone else entirely. Not to say that C-man is innocent.
As time goes on, things turn from a passionate project to dangerous liaisons. One of the three friends quits because things are no longer like they wanted them to be. Then the friend that was the actual director gets strangled to death, accidentally, by Mitsuko. Then things get darker than black after that!
Mitsuko’s family gets involved too, as C-man plans to marry Mitsuko but in actuality he just wants their fortune. They too end up dead. Mitsuko’s sister also gets seduced by C-man and not only does she contribute to their parents’ death, but she is with the others when they decide to kill Mitsuko off.
You see she began to lose her mind as time went by. She not only lost her unborn baby, but she killed the friend director before C-man took over as the director, and then to make things worse, her visions of Romeo stopped, and she no longer saw Romeo.
You see Mitsuko almost had Romeo’s soul prisoner. Her obsessions with Romeo was so strong that she never managed to love anyone else. Yes, we find out in the twist that she never loved C-man. It was all her plan all along. Even when she almost had a bay with him, even as they almost married, she didn’t love him. She already knew that he was a monster so all that time he was actually playing her game.
Of all the characters, it was Taeko and the director friend strangled to death that kept their wits about them. That lead to their deaths, because Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not a hero movie. It is in fact a baddie movie. It is based off real events apparently, but we all know there are no ghosts in real life so Mr Sion added in some fantastical elements to juicy up the story.
Ghosts? Yes, Romeo was not just a figment of Mitsuko’s imagination. Like I said, it was almost like she was holding her soul captive all these years since her accident in 1985. But when Mitsuko started to lose herself, she started to forget about Romeo and in the end when she committed murder, Romeo left her and for the first time since they were together, she appeared to Taeko.
You could say that Romeo felt guilty and that was why she was with Mitsuko all this time but when Mitsuko changed, she saw that all she was doing was a waste. All that time she could have been with Taeko, Taeko the girl that she loved.
You see, back in the day when Romeo was still alive, she and Taeko were in love. One time in fact Mitsuko caught them making out in class, even though they faked saying Taeko was only giving Romeo a foot massage. Yeah, no massage is that good!!! They probably did not know that Mitsuko was in love with Romeo or maybe they knew which is why they lied about it.
Either way, since that time Mitsuko had hated both Romeo and Taeko. She hated them so much that even when Romeo died, she felt happy because then Taeko would not have Romeo anymore. And when the other club members decided to commit suicide together, Mitsuko did not take the slipping medication the others took so when they fell over, she did not and she was happy seeing Taeko down there crying in tortuous pain. She would of course have preferred her to die but eh…
Such is the twist of the story that Mitsuko told in her dying letter before C-man, the left director friend, who was actually the serial killer and the one that killed Taeko, and Mitsuko’s sister took Mitsuko out in the woods to kill her off.
Before they did she revealed everything about them, about her relationship with Taeko and Romeo, about her relationship with C-man, about how she knew that the left-man was the killer on TV and how he killed Taeko.
Yeah, to say that it was a WTF moment would be a major understatement.
During her reveal of the history between her and Taeko and Romeo, we find out that Romeo and Taeko were in love and we get to see what actually happened in class that time instead of a foot massage! Intense make-out session is what was happening!!!
Mitsuko gets killed, the sister dies too and it is the C-man and the Serial Killer that actually survive. It is such a hopeless story but it is not like I wanted Mitsuko to live. After her reveal, all feelings I might have had for her went out the window. Only person worth living was Taeko but she died and if she died, no one deserved to live.
One person I wanted dead so badly was C-man. What a dick! If only this was The Handmaiden! At least conmen get what they deserve there. Oh well, as they tell us in the credits, one died while the other is still rotting in prison to this day but still, I would have loved to see some on-screen justice!
So, as you see, yuri is very thin but it is the reason for the story, of the movie anyway. But Taeko and Romeo’s story is one sad one. Sadder still was that Taeko had to survive the suicide pact and the other person who did hated her so instead of taking care of each other, they let themselves rot away in despair alone, with Taeko having lost her love and not able to talk about it with Mitsuko and Mitsuko hated Taeko so much she couldn’t stand her so really, sadness all around.
But such is expected from Sion Sono movies so really, this is the regular cup of tea.
Do I recommend it? Well, duh, I am writing about it, aren’t I? Even with the yuri aside, it is top level movie making so you can still enjoy it and the yuri is the icing on that cake!
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and watch it again because after that ending, everyone will want to go back and watch the movie with a new set of eyes and mindset! Those are the types of movies that I love and so THE FOREST OF LOVE gets a thumbs up from me!