I must say, my first impression, composed of the outline and poster of this movie, was: “Oh please, not another corny romantic culinary drama.” In Japan, there has always been an audience craving for food and craftmanship orientated content. The long list of contemporary dramas ranges from Asadora’s like “Massan” (2014) to the Netflix hit “Midnight Diner” (2011) and also includes big oversea successes “An” (2015). The Japanese movie industry, therefore, has a very big output serving this demand. I was even more surprised when I actually saw the movie and I had to admit, that the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” once more was accurate.

For Love’s Sake” is screening at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival

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The plot of Naoki Segi’s “For Love’s Sake” offers a pretty simple and predictable fish-out-of-the-water scenario. Shirio (Rina Kawaei), obligated to her incredible palate for wine, is the uprising star of the winemaking university. To complete her degree, she wants to master in France, but before that she is determined to do an internship in Japan. Instead of sending her to a winery, the lottery allocates her to a sake brewery in Hiroshima. As we follow her on the unwanted journey, it becomes clearer that Shirio tries to make the best out of the situation.

Not only Shiroi is put in a crisis situation, but the brewery itself is in the middle of an identity crisis. Since the old brewer fell ill and his son, Kanji (Hayato Onozuka), is not willing to continue the business of his old man, Shiroi becomes an important mediator between old traditions and new ways in the liquor business. In the end, Shiroi not only sparks a new flame for the factory but also for her own life.

The carefully chosen ensemble, consisting of Mao Miyaji (“Lost Love Murder”, 2010), Mantaro Koichi (“Radiance”, 2017), Ren Osugi (“Dolls”, 2002), only to name a few, harmonises very good on screen and gathers around the lead character played by Rina Kawaei, a former AKB48 member and nowadays a well-known drama actress. She perfectly fits the cute, but smart stereotype and does not fall for the girly girl trap. Kawaei plays her role in a loveable and subtle way. As she faces new challenges, the movie, of course, also holds up a love story for the audience. Here, the movie has its weak spots and the relationship plotline is rather neglectable.

“For Love’s Sake” is much stronger as a family drama that presents the struggle of an outdying family business by showing a plausible character development. Therefore, director Naoki Segi emphasizes on the significance of the supporting cast and benefits from the marvelous and iconic pictures captured by the cinematography of Kenzo Okada (“Shundo”, 2013). A lot of sequences pay tribute to the city of Hiroshima and honor the craftsmanship of sake brewing.

“For Love’s Sake” is a light-hearted and charming love story that proves an eye for detail, which ultimately makes the difference to the many mediocre culinary dramas out there.

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