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CANNES 2024 Un Certain Regard

Review: My Sunshine


- CANNES 2024: This likeable film by Hiroshi Okuyama lacks bite, but it will make you want to put on your old skates again – if you manage to find them, that is

Review: My Sunshine
Keitatsu Koshiyama, Kiara Nakanishi and Sōsuke Ikematsu in My Sunshine

Hiroshi Okuyama’s My Sunshine [+see also:
interview: Hiroshi Okuyama
film profile
might not be the most obvious choice for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, and predictably, it went home empty-handed. Still, his film should fare much better at many family-friendly festivals to come. It’s likeable and slightly Billy Elliot-ish – with figure skating instead of ballet – although it’s also more sombre than your usual crowd-pleaser about kids following their dreams.

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Little Takuya (Keitatsu Koshiyama) desperately wants to try figure skating – it’s as simple as that. Well, maybe not in his small town on a Japanese island, where the winter is long and it’s all about ice hockey. Resigned to his fate, he just keeps staring – also at Sakura (Kiara Nakanishi), a promising figure skater trained by Arakawa (Sōsuke Ikematsu). But the coach notices the boy. He sees something in him, notices the passion and invites him over. The problem is, Sakura doesn’t like to share the spotlight. Especially with someone that shy, who stutters, and who isn’t even that good.

Okuyama’s drama is restrained, but emotions still run pretty high: it’s just that nobody shows them or talks about what they are going through. There is jealousy, fear, and even “disgust” as Sakura gets a glimpse into her coach’s personal life and doesn’t like it one bit – or just assumes that she shouldn’t, even though he is just out grocery shopping with his boyfriend. The sadness is here, but so is the joy: the joy of figure skating, of working on something together – Arakawa decides to enter them both into a competition – even of first love, perhaps.

Takuya has no visible talent, so why this coach suddenly invests all his time into teaching him, pro bono, isn’t immediately clear. But there is some recognition between them, some connection, because Arakawa is an outsider, too. Just like in that old song, he has to “hide his love away” and doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with accepting himself. He hasn’t been happy for a while now, it is said here, so he decides to make someone else happy instead. It works – at least for a while.

For a sports movie, which one can assume it is, My Sunshine is very gentle. Too gentle – and yet there are still too many training montages and the story is slight. Maybe that’s why Okuyama does what he can with those lovely, wintery surroundings. So many people living on this island are just stuck, buried under this heavy snow, but guess what – spring is already around the corner. These three might be hurting right now, but they will probably find their way later on. And in the meantime, time goes by, teasing a better – and warmer – tomorrow. So, hide away your hockey sticks and your skates, and get ready for baseball season.

My Sunshine is a Japanese-French co-production staged by Comme des Cinémas, Tokyo Theatres Co and Asahi Shimbun. Its sales are handled by Charades.

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