Winner of the Runner-Up Award at the PIA Film Festival this year, “When the Rain Stops” is a more than accomplished short film that manages to include an impressive amount of context in just 28 minutes.
The story revolves around two junior high school students; beautiful and popular Rikako and timid and introvert Kota. Despite the difference in their attitude, however, both children face issues at home. Kota’s father is nowhere to be found, and his mother is rather immature, mostly caring about having fun and dealing with men, instead of taking care of him. Rikako’s father has remarried, but her step-mom and stepsister do not like her in particular, in essence alienating her even inside their house. Since both Kota and Rikako are in a constant search of excuses to get away from home, eventually their paths collide, and an unlikely friendship is shaped. Life and reality, however, are still standing in their way.
Yui Yamaguchi directs a movie about the ways loneliness, and particularly the one deriving from lack of parenting, can connect people. In order to highlight this concept even more, Yamaguchi has created two characters radically different, thus commenting on the fact that loneliness can strike any kind of people, in this case both the “popular” and the “outsider”. The fact that he refrains from presenting the relationship of the two students as romantic, actually adds to the context, as it also allows the film to avoid clichés.
At the same time, his comments about contemporary parents are quite pointy, in two different examples. Kota’s mom is actually quite close to him, sharing with him almost anything, in an attitude, though, that would be more fitting to a friend than a parent, with her tactics actually taking a toll on the young boy’s psychology. In Rikako’s case, both her actual parents shine through their absence, while her stepmother is even worse, totally neglecting her, at least when she is not badmouthing her with her actual daughter.
The way the two of them cope with their family issues is also interesting and antithetical. Rikako presents a permanent facade of happiness, even when the attitude of her friends disappoints her, while Kota appears distant and uncommunicative, although his feelings are quite evident in his face, when one looks directly him. This last aspect, and the mentality of children, is highlighted in the scenes where Rikako appears in “their secret place” with two friends, and when his mother comes home with another guy. It is quite evident in both cases that Kota is sad and disappointed for losing the exclusivity, although in the second case, the fact that his mother is drunk also adds to his feelings. Both of these aspects benefit the most by the acting of the two young actors, who give mature and very fitting performances, the boy a bit more measured and the girl a bit more extravagant, as per their characters. Their antithetical chemistry is also impressive, also highlighting the abilities of the director in guiding these young actors.
Furthermore, that her friends see behind her facade and the way they communicate it to Kota is also a comment on the cruelty frequently found in high school classrooms, while the whole behaviour of the girls also shows that they are much more mature and emotionally intelligent at this age than boys.
The only aspect of the narrative I found a bit excessive and rushed is the presence of the child molester, but I understand the director used him to make another point and that, since the film is a short, she did not have the time to explore more.
The cinematography is idyllic and picturesque, with the change between the scenes in the sun and the ones in the rain mirroring the sentiments of the protagonists, while the scenes where the two walk together in the rain are as beautiful as they are meaningful.
“When the Rain Stops” is a great effort and a film that could easily become a feature with some additional funding, since the story and the context to do so is definitely there. I will definitely be following Yui Yamaguchi’s work in the future.