“The best couple competition for Uji fireworks”
The film “One Second Ahead, One Second Behind” is a remake of the popular Taiwanese movie “My Missing Valentine”. It stays true to the original story, but with one significant change – the genders of the main characters are swapped.
Hajime has always had a natural knack for being one step ahead of everyone else. He always seems to be ahead of the game, whether it’s in school portraits where his eyes are always closed, or waking up before his alarm even goes off. Driving has been a struggle for him, which is why he left his job delivering mail and now works at the post office counter. He shares a home with his sister, who is into the ganguro subculture, and he frequently calls into the radio station to share personal details about his life. His mother and sister often tune in and give their own opinions, especially when it comes to his self-deprecating thoughts about not being able to maintain a relationship. However, things take a turn when he meets Sakurako, a singer who immediately catches his attention.
Reika, who is plain and often alone, has always been a step behind others. Every day, she visits Hajime’s post office branch to purchase a stamp, but he barely acknowledges her and does not recognize her from their previous encounters.
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Nobuhiro Yamashita is the director of a movie that is divided into two sections, each one highlighting one of the main characters with a noticeable difference in style. The first section centers around Hajime and takes a comedic approach, featuring humorous characters and his own self-perception as a loser, resulting in entertaining jokes. While at times the humor may verge on slapstick or pedantic, similar to Vietnamese comedies, the bittersweet circumstances of the protagonist and the introduction of Sakurako help keep the story grounded.
The following section, however, delves into more intense themes by incorporating flashbacks of the main characters’ pasts. Reika’s personal history and her relationship with Sakurako serve as the primary focus. In addition to the supernatural elements, Yamashita also introduces surprising plot twists and an unforeseen romantic subplot involving the significance of Japanese calligraphy strokes.
As the film progresses, especially after the second part begins, it becomes clear that it is a lengthy “will-they, won’t-they” story (both literally and in terms of time manipulation) that is unlike any we have seen before. Unfortunately, Yamashita extends this plot even further, making the movie drag on and become tedious, especially towards the end. However, the way in which the plot twists and supernatural elements are presented is quite intriguing, in line with the typical style of Japanese eccentric comedies. Surprisingly, the second part is actually better in that it avoids being overly pedantic like Hajime’s character. Lastly, the optimistic message at the end that the universe will eventually return to you whatever you have lost in life fits well with the overall aesthetic of the film, even though it may be overly romanticized.
The cinematography by Yoichi Kamakari is bright and polished, perfectly capturing the manga-style of the movie. The visuals, including scenes on the beach and at night, are visually appealing. The post office is also worth noting, as it is cleverly integrated into the movie both visually and contextually. Takashi Sato’s editing creates a quick pace that complements the storytelling, but some trimming in the final portion would improve the movie’s overall flow. At 119 minutes, the movie may feel a bit lengthy and could benefit from being slightly shorter.
Masaki Okada as Hajime plays the likable clown with gusto, if without a sense of measure, particularly in the first part, with his performance finding its zenith in the less comedic moments actually. Kaya Kiyohara is much more down-to-earth as Reika, with her performance creating a very appealing antithesis with Hajime, which would probably be more impressive if the two had more common time on screen. Rion Fukumuro as Sakurako handles the two parts of her character equally well, in another pleasing performance here.
The phrase “One Second Ahead, One Second Behind” presents some challenges, specifically with regards to the delay, length of time, and the lack of logical consistency in the plot. However, overall, it is an enjoyable movie to watch, thanks to its unique take on the romantic comedy genre.