Tuomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
I love that I'm far more well adjusted to movies like this than I was just a couple of years ago. Like if I had seen this at some point in the past I likely would have gotten antsy and frustrated with the movie because I didn't feel like it was going anywhere, but now watching the film I have no such feelings. The movie doesn't give me a reason to think that it's driven by "plot", so I don't expect it to be.
What the film instead offers is a deeply compelling story about characters and their relationships and how those relationships develop and deepen the more the film goes on. It doesn't carry as much punch as Hamaguchi's other feature Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, but that's because that one is an hour shorter anthology with three stories inside it.
It's much easier to create big moments in a movie like that than it is in a slow drama like this which takes it time, but that's also why I loved the experience. The film is such a magnificent mood piece and watching it I simply soaked in the atmosphere as I loved to let myself go and be consumed by the world the film offered.
The cinematography in Hamaguchi's films is interesting because it evokes a similar feeling as sterile desatured films, but not quite because there's such a warmth to the look of the film. These images are simply pleasant to look at even though they're driven by mundanity. There isn't an interest in going big by capturing gorgeous landscapes, or crafting busy shots with a lot of detail and movement, what there is instead is a focus on performance and the humanity of the characters.
What Hamaguchi is interested in is the intimate. It's all about the desire and the internality of the characters. One of the best ways he creates this is by having the lead witness a man in the midst of an act in the beginning of the film, which he will never explicitly confront. We know what he saw and as a result we can clearly read a wealth of internality to his performance when the man in question later on re-enters the film.
As much as I love melodrama as a style considering there's nothing better than the big emotions, there's just something about a film like this which consistently chooses to not lean into the drama. There could be fights, there could be blowups, but time and time again there's something else. it's because of this consistently restrained through line, that when the climactic moment comes, it feels huge even though it's not played up whatsoever.
In previous years I've had a very easy time of choosing what's my favorite, but now having finally seen this one, I truly don't have any idea what's my favorite of the year. This one is tied with at the very least a couple of other ones.