Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2022: Our Review of ‘Sensei, Would You Site Beside Me’

Posted in Movies by - June 20, 2022
Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2022: Our Review of ‘Sensei, Would You Site Beside Me’

Takahiro Horie’s film Sensei, Would You Site Beside Me has enough realistically looking actors playing its characters. And it tries and mostly succeeds to use that casting as a benefit in a film that is both a thriller and a comedy. Toshio (Tasuku Emoto) is deadpan after driving his wife Sawako (Haru Kuroki) to one of her driving lessons. She’s all smiles though, because they replaced her driving instructor with a younger man, Shintani (Daichi Kaneko).

These actors, specifically Kuroki and Kaneko, have a sneakily difficult job ahead of them. They’re playing out Sawako and Shintani’s driving lessons in an imaginary world. Specifically, both she and Toshio are manga writers. And since Sawako suspects Toshio of infidelity with their assistant (Nao), she writes a manga where she and Shintani have an affair. Are the things happening onscreen true? What is Sawako specifically doing to get back at Toshio?

Although I did list some genres above, a lot of Sensei is more straight up drama. Specifically, contemporary Japanese dramas where the tone can both get saccharine and underdone. There are cultural barriers and prejudices at play here. But it has to convince festival audiences that Sawako finds both her romantic interests attractive even though they’re both not. Although as much as I credit Kuroki and Kaneko’s tasks here, Emoto also does good work here.

What makes Emoto good here is how he makes Toshio’s paranoia intentionally hilarious, which saves this from being a generic adultery erotic thriller. All of this, by the way, takes place at Sawako’s mother Mayumi’s (Jun Fubuki) cottage. It’s always better when a film feels like a cluster bomb, with the right amount of characters coming in to watch two people be chaotic. And even when the chaos comes, Sensei beautifully controls those elements well.

  • Release Date: 6/20/2022
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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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