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Last Letter (2020) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)
Matsu Takako (Actor) | Hirose Suzu (Actor) | Fukuyama Masaharu (Actor) | Nakayama Miho (Actor)
Last Letter (2020) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version)
In 2017, Iwai Shunji achieved a decade-long dream with Last Letter, his first Chinese-language film. Despite being backed by Peter Chan as producer and superstar Zhou Xun as his lead, the dreamy romantic drama was largely met with indifference from Chinese filmgoers. Iwai brought the story back to Japan, publishing his Japanese-language novelization of the story and remaking the film in Japan with an even starrier cast. The new Last Letter is technically a remake, but it feels like the film that Iwai had meant to make all along.

The 2020 version of Last Letter follows virtually the same story as the original film: After the untimely death of her older sister, Misaki, housewife Yuri (Matsu Takako, the star of Iwai's April Story) goes to Misaki's high school reunion to pass the bad news to her old classmates. However, she ends up being mistaken for Misaki by the attendees, including Kyoshiro (Fukuyama Masaharu), whom Yuri had a crush on in high school. Over a series of letters with Kyoshiro, Yuri (writing as Misaki) begins to learn about a secret past between Kyoshiro and her sister.

Made as a thematic continuation of Love Letter, Last Letter revisits many of the themes in Iwai's 1995 beloved classic – mistaken identities, schoolyard crushes, overcoming grief and the romantic nature of letter writing. While Iwai's overly whimsical vision of life in suburban China felt slightly off in the original, the story feels perfectly at home when set in Japan. Iwai's talent for crafting likeable but socially awkward characters and finding humor in everyday situations are more apparent in the 2020 version, thanks to the film being in the writer-director's native language and culture. In a country where fax machines are still widely used, it's less of a stretch to believe that two middle-aged people would exchange handwritten letters in the year 2020.

Though the remake carries over some of the original film's flaws – the story becomes less engaging when the focus shifts from Yuri to Misaki's teenage daughter, Ayumi (Kore-eda favorite Hirose Suzu) – it also enhances the strengths of the original. The characters were already well-drawn in the original film, but Matsu is better at conveying her character's awkwardness than Zhou, and Fukuyama also makes a more likeable choice for the lovelorn Kyoshiro than Qin Hao in the original. Anime fans will get a kick out of seeing Evangelion creator Anno Hideaki as Yuri's husband, who happens to be a manga writer who seems to have no problem with meeting deadlines.

Filming in his home prefecture of Miyagi for the first time, Iwai and his longtime cinematographer Kanbe Chigi have created their most gorgeous collaboration yet with Last Letter 2020. Largely filmed on Steadicam, the constant floating movement of the camera brings a dreamy vibe to the film. The camerawork feels more naturalistic this time around, eschewing much of the oddly distracting camerawork in Iwai's recent outings. If the original Last Letter is the result of a chef trying his hand at fusion cuisine for the first time, the 2020 Japanese remake is the chef going back to making his comfort food while throwing in a few dashes of new ingredients to keep things fresh. Last Letter 2020 doesn't quite reach the height of Love Letter, and it lacks the crazy ambition of The Bride of Rip Van Winkle, but it's a pleasant and welcome reminder of why so many film buffs in Asia fell in love with Iwai's films in the first place.

by Kevin Ma






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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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