Did you know that the English title for the Japanese movie “An” is Sweet Bean? That’s like titling a movie “Char Siew” or “Papadom.” Oh wait… nevermind.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you this movie isn’t for everybody. Unless your day-to-day routine consists of jacking off to movies, swimming in movies and rolling around in movies, you are going to hate An. If you watched movies like Ex Machina and found yourself playing Candy Crush midway through, you will definitely beg your friend to end your life merely fifteen minutes into An.
An is a close to two-hour long movie about three people and a Dorayaki (red bean pancake) shop. Yeap, that’s right. You see that dao sa pao seller in your local Chinese kopitiam? This movie is about him. On the surface, An revolves around Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), a red bean pancake seller, Wakana (Kyara Uchida), Sentaro’s regular customer, and Tokue (Kirin Kiki), an old lady who wants to work in Sentaro’s shop.
Sounds boring right? Here’s the thing, though: the whole “red bean pancake” angle is merely a plot device. What director and screenwriter Naomi Kawase actually crafted is a movie in which we get to look at life through the eyes of three people in three varying stages of life – the troubled teenager, the middle-aged man who has almost nothing going for him, and an elderly woman nearing the end of her time.
This brings about some engaging interactions between the three characters. The performances are strong and grounded. The chemistry between these characters are excellent as well. Both Sentaro and Wakana are introverts, and because of that, the interactions between these characters are always a little awkward, yet you can feel how much they care for each other.
Naomi Kawase did a great job as well. Here she proves that you don’t need a huge budget to make a beautiful movie. There is a lot from this movie that amateur directors can learn from. Now, I know it seems that this movie is going to be receiving a high rating from me, but such is not the case.
The problem with this movie, lies in the script. An starts in one place and just doesn’t go anywhere. It has nothing to do with the number of characters nor its premise. Ex Machina also had only three characters talking to each other for two hours. The difference is, from the first minute to the last, I was at the edge of my seat, fully invested in all the characters, wondering if something is going to go wrong. An on the other hand is just so boring. The movie starts off in gear one and never switches gears at all. Watching this movie is like travelling from Johor Bahru to Penang at 20km/h.
I kept asking myself, “Is something going to happen? Is shit about to take a dramatic turn?” And then I stopped asking myself and started thinking about lunch. Because nothing happens. The movie just goes on and on and on at a snail’s pace. And when the supposed emotional moment finally takes place, I didn’t care at all. I was just glad the movie was over.
While An had a decent concept and some strong performances, the pacing of the movie was just too tough to endure, especially when nothing of relevance is happening. But if you’re into film, just like I am, then there are a couple of things you might find interesting in An. Regardless you should…