“She is Alone” is the first feature film of Natsuko Nakagawa. The young filmmaker, who studied cinematic arts and contemporary psychology, tells the story of the suicidal girl Sumiko. Her destructive traits and revenge fantasies cause a lot of chaos within the social construct that goes by the name “high school”.
After losing her mother to suicide, Sumiko tries to kill herself, too. But the attempt fails and she is under the suspicion of her father, friends, and teachers from then on. Everybody feels responsible and Sumiko is surrounded by an overbearing network of people. “She is Alone” reveals the hypocrisy of this network.
The female lead is characterized by apathy. Having come back from the edge of death, Sumiko spends her days aimlessly as she begins to blackmail her classmate Hideaki, who is dating a teacher at school. Akari Fukunaga (“Unten Keikan” 2016), in one of her first big roles, plays a cold-hearted teenager, emotionally numb, but honest. As she deals with the feeling of grief, Akari portrays a not so innocent lead that is spinning intrigues among her social sphere.
Director Natsuki Nakagawa mixes thriller and ghost film elements. By introducing creepy noises, only heard by Sumiko, the high school drama gets another surreal dimension. This shows the internal conflict of the strong female character, who is overwhelmed with emotions and tries to find a way out of it. Sumiko finds an answer in violence and anger. As we get to see her getting more and more out of control, her sentiments are furiously presented on screen by the realistic cinematography of Akiko Ashizawa. Known for her work with Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Loft” 2005, “Tokyo Sonata” 2008, “Before We Vanish” 2017), Ashizawa is one of the few veterans in this movie.
Dealing with the topic of grief, the young director joins the ranks of the work of other colleagues like Makoto Nagahisa’s “We are Little Zombies” (2019) presenting contemporary Japanese Cinema. Natsuki Nagakawa’s psychogram of Japanese society already received the SKIP CITY AWARD, given to the Japanese filmmaker whose next feature project is highly anticipated. “She is Alone” is a promising start to a hopefully prolific oeuvre.