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Film review: All The Long Nights (2024) by Sho Miyake
Film review: All The Long Nights (2024) by Sho Miyake

Film review: All The Long Nights (2024) by Sho Miyake

A strong, character-driven drama

After his quiet, moving drama “Small, Slow, but Steady” (2022) based on the autobiographical book by Keiko Ogasawara about her life as the first professional boxer with disability in this sport, Japanese helmer Sho Miyake is back on the international festival track with another little marvel of a film “All The Long Nights”. Just like its predecessor, the film had its world premiere at the Berlinale to critical acclaim. Another thing they have in common is that “All The Long Nights” is also based on a (eponymous) novel by Maiko Seo (published in 2020), adapted into a screenplay by Wada Kiyoto and the helmer himself.

All The Long Nights screened at Red Lotus Asian Film Festival Vienna

In a sense, the premises of both films are comparable: people coming to terms with their specific health-related conditions and living their lives to the best. This time, in focus are a young woman with a very strong form of PMS and an introverted man of about the same age whose handicap is unpredictable fits of panic attacks. They develop a bond of platonic nature, and even if there might be a hint or two about a potentially deeper, romantic connection, the relationship between Misa (Mone Kamishirashi) and Takatoshi (Hokuto Matsumura) remains straightout built on mutual support and care.

Check the interview with the director

We are firstly introduced to Misa who quits her well paid job after a couple of episodes caused by her PMS-related mood swings. Otherwise good-natured and good-spirited, her complete change of behavior once a month is a bit of a shocker for the Japanese system of clearly defined rules of politeness. Misa is embarrassed and at the same time aware that she has to find some kind of compromise in a perhaps smaller, and not so strictly corporate environment. Her only solid support from the first symptoms manifested in the puberty is her mother, who comes to her rescue every time she’s needed, despite of the hour of the day and weather conditions.

Five years forward, Misa is somewhere else indeed. She works in a small scale company that manufactures science- and telescope kits for schools, performing a routine job that doesn’t seem to make her frustrated. In the tiny office, she is seated next to a very private and slightly socially awkward Takatoshi who doesn’t put effort in befriending his colleagues. He is the only one who never takes Misa’s offer of sweets. Everything points out in a direction of complete alienation until Misa, plagued by her PMS, starts paying attention to the young man’s “loud sipping” of carbonated water demanding he should stop with it. Instead of a conflict, a form of mutual understanding that both of them have plenty in common, starts forming.

The narrative builds in slow pace, allowing us to get to know the characters from inside out. Takatoshi remains more of a mystery as a man who, despite of his frequent visits to a medical specialist and being in a (so it seems) well functioning love relationship with career-driven girlfriend Chihiro (Haruka Imo), knows how to speak about his problems to someone who has entered his life only recently. But his true self seems to be constantly half-hidden between quotes and metaphors.

There is a touch of criticism of Japanese medical care given through excellent performances by two actors playing Takatoshi’s psychologist and Miso’s gynecologist, both semi-interested in their patients’ problems. Misa’s plea to get on the pill gets stubbornly turned down, and she is constantly being prescribed herbal medicine that never does anything to improve her condition. The only well functioning therapy is the one provided through the young people’s friendship.

Scripted as a story of friendship, and not a drama about specific heath conditions, “All The Long Nights” doesn’t fall pray for clichés. It is more character driven than focused on illnesses that only serve as the backdrop of the story. It is impressive that even the most episodic roles are developed to the fullest, and each of the actors appearing on-screen deliver excellent performances, notably the office team led by the charismatic boss Kazuo (Ken Mitsuishi) who seems to be spending all his time in the company, watering plants and spreading good mood. The additional mood booster is the piano score by DJ Hi’Spec, with its soft, joyful tunes.

“All The Long Nights” was the opener of Red Lotus Asian Film Festival in Vienna, where we watched in the completely sold out Stadtkino cinema.