JYBRD’s review published on Letterboxd:
"We must keep on living."
Second viewing and I'm now convinced this isn't just the best film of 2021, it's one of my all-time favorites. I'm sure I'll have even more to say on its various treasures in the future, but the main takeaway from this rewatch is admiration and awe for the generosity and depth of the conversation the film is having with other art works and other art mediums.
Obviously there's the literary nature of its adaptation from a Murakami story, but there's also a loving homage to Chekov, and the singular power of actors channeling these ideas through their own experience, on stage. Then there's the conversation the characters are having with the stories they tell themselves, most notably Kafuku and Takatsuki's conversation about Oto's unfinished story, which is itself concerned with grief, acceptance, and atonement. ("I must take responsibility for what I've done.")
And the filmmaking: pitch-perfect. It's unassuming visual storytelling that's the epitome of "show, don't tell", but has storyboards and mise-en-scene that reinforce the emotional undercurrents, from Kafuku and Misaki's long exit out of the tunnel following their mutual confessions, to that transcendent moment of hands and cigarettes dangling from the sunroof of that beautifully red Saab sedan. Breath and death floating in the slipstream of this broken world.
The dialogue, the self-referential discourse with other writers and ideas, the long and slow passage out of grief and stagnation, and the iterative feedback loop of that process in concert with others —that's life, my friends, perhaps as close as we'll capture it on celluloid.