Is it possible to make a film that mixes friendship themes in the style of Shunji Iwai with the intrigue and bizarre terror of Takashi Miike? The new director Ryohei Watanabe has proved that yes, you can, but not only with good results, but also with a very limited budget. It is these films that encourage young directors to take the plunge and fulfill their dream of making a film.
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“Shady” tells the story of two friends: Misa and Izumi. They both meet at school and soon become close friends. Misa is a somewhat innocent and peculiar girl, which causes her classmates to make fun of her suffering. Her only friends seem to be a goldfish at the science room in school and her pet budgie bird at home, but it is when she meets Izumi that Misa opens up more to life. Izumi is everything that does not seem to be Misa: Beautiful, extroverted and an always smiling girl. Soon they establish a strong and close friendship between them, but it seems that, little by little, the true character of Izumi is revealed, which will cause Misa to feel increasingly uncomfortable.
With hardly any budget and with practically unknown and non-professional actresses, Ryohei Watanabe is able to take advantage of everything that surrounds him and manages to create a story that is not only exciting but also intriguing and terrifying. “Shady” is supported mainly by the characters of Misa and Izumi. They are the absolute protagonists of the film. Without them, there would be nothing to see here. The film not only addresses the issue and consequences of school bullying, but also the importance of having a good friend by your side that supports you and makes you feel special. But there is also an important theme within the film, how such a special friendship can become a toxic and harmful one, in a matter of time.
“Shady” begins as a typical cheerful and friendly teen movie, and continues well for a while with some flashes of what will come in the future, until the true essence of evil comes. The moviehas a good pacing that has nothing to envy from any blockbuster. It is really enviable what is achieved in this film with so little. Even Katsuki Tsuji’s cinematography seems to be more than it is, speaking in the sense of the film’s own production, with shots full of symbolism and symmetrical shots. There are some scenes in which the lack of budget is obvious, especially at night because of the lack of light, but that doesn’t drag the film from being an enjoyable experience
It is also appreciated that the director focuses totally and solely on the two main characters, since there are hardly any secondary one. There are, but they lack real importance, so we are continually seeing how the friendship between Misa and Izumi evolves. Their performances are really brilliant, especially Izumi’s one, played by Izumi Okamura. It is easy to fall into overacting and ridicule in this kind of crazy and extroverted roles, but the actress knows how to measure perfectly between her body gestures and vocal acting. On the other hand, Misa, played by Mimpib is more controlled, but not worse, mainly because her character demands it. Mimpib gives life to Misa with a lot of credibility.
Ryohei Watanabe knows perfectly well when and how to create tension in the environment. Sometimes he does it in a natural way and ends the scene without more to add, with the characters reacting in a more or less natural way, but there are other moments in which the situation becomes so rare that even the characters, in this case Misa, reacts out of the ordinary and the scene becomes more tense than it already is.
In conclusion, “Shady” is a more than recommended film if you want to see a rarity that mixes the bizarre horror genre with the teenage coming of age genre in the most purest Japanese style. As I said before, it’s as if Takashi Miike and Shunji Iwai had made a movie together and this was the result. “Shady” is entertaining, intriguing and captivating, showing that you can tell a lot with very little.