Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘The Brightest Roof in the Universe’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘The Brightest Roof in the Universe’

Tsubame (Kaya Kiyohara) has a lot going on. But The Brightest Roof in the Universe‘s first act seems to depict her juggling those activities relatively well. She has her home, school, calligraphy classes, but the movie’s main focus is on her strange friendship with Toyo (Kaori Momoi). She’s a woman who rags her for her bad taste in boys.

Toyo and Tsubame go out to different places like aquariums. But wherever they go, Toyo comments on things that fly as she does, a magical ability that she can only do offscreen. These two characters wish they could do what the other does. That dynamic makes them help each other first in minor things but the favors become more emotionally meaningful.

Brightest Roof has at least one or two reviews out there, one of which took points off because of its pacing. Maybe the pacing has something to do with it, but the biggest flaw here is that it’s still setting things up midway. The movie does it through its supporting characters whose own troubles only factor in to Tsubame’s.

Toyo’s acerbic wit is also rubbing into Tsubame, which affects said supporting characters. One of those is her calligraphy teacher, and her meanness towards him feels sudden. When he alludes to a possibility that she’s in love, she snipes back at him that he should fall in love instead. And guess what, he eventually does with an older student.

Speaking of eventualities, a plot point reveals Tsubame’s other connection with Toyo that feels predictable. As I write this though, it reminds me of the adage about the saddest people laughing the loudest. Toyo’s big emotional scene works so well here. The movie also makes use of its spaces to express beauty and magic within its two compelling main characters.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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