One of the best scenes in the film is when Miyazaki’s character is talking with a classmate she has started going out with. We’ve seen them innocently kiss and we see this as a first step, perhaps, in her trying to re-assimilate into a normal middle school life. The two characters are in an classroom, empty of people but full of desks. The boy inquires about the rumors surrounding her relationship with the teacher. Miyazaki, without hesitation, gently pulls one of the desks from the back of the room to the front, knocking it into rows of desks and chairs as she exits. It’s an outstanding scene and really highlights how well this sixteen year old actor is able to internalize her character’s angst and scream it out loud without making a sound.
I can’t say enough about how good Miyazaki’s performance is. I’ve mentioned how relentlessly her character is punished throughout the film. The amazing thing is how quietly and resigned, how maturely and almost positively, she responds to all of it. Her alienation is palpable and yet she wanders through the film with such strength of character it’s mesmerizing.
I still don’t think the film is assembled very well. If it weren’t for Miyazaki’s performance it would be difficult to engage. The lack of a traditional flow of ideas seems crass, too challenging for its own good. The exaggerated level of her abuse, coupled with her transcendent response to it, still makes me question the director's choice for the ending. It comes off like another slap in the face, a misguided attempt to inflict more pain in the viewer’s heart when something, anything, would have been more appropriate for the character. Ultimately, however, I guess it is the organic summation of the vision that the director set out to explore: bad things happen to good people and the alienation of youth is a train wreck of self-multiplying disasters that once begun is impossible to stop. It’s a shame that redemption is withheld from a character so deserving of it.
If you are a fan of Aoi Miyazaki you need to see this film just to see what she was capable of at age sixteen. It’s pretty powerful.