Switching - Goodbye Me 転校生 -さよなら あなた- (Tenkôsei: Sayonara anata) [2007] • Japan

It cracks me up the way the Japanese (and the Koreans do this too), concoct these un-named, incurable diseases and then treat them as just another plot point, no big deal really. Someone dies here, but this information isn't really a spoiler because it doesn't matter. It's not what the movie is about. Switching - Goodbye Me is the story of two fifteen year old kids, a boy and a girl, who switch bodies and learn about themselves, their relationships, and love. It's a theme that's been done before. In fact, Switching - Goodbye Me is a remake by the same director of a very well received film he made in 1982 called I Are You, You Am Me (Tenkosei).

Switching - Goodbye Me is filled with beautiful cinematography that seems a pay grade above the level of film it's operating in. The acting is all very good, especially from the two teenagers gender-hopping as the leads, and the script is quirky smart. I was a little surprised by the very casual but to-the-point dialog about nuts and boobs and "body parts that change shape" when you touch them. Not because I don't think fifteen year old kids talk about these things but because these two fifteen year old kids are presented as something close to the epitome of innocence. That's the beauty of this film. It's somewhat skewed all the way through. Even the camera angles are all mostly from off the horizontal plane. And the typically Japanese ability to hurl fast-paced absurd dialog at you with a straight face makes for an odd yet peaceful roller-coaster ride.

The first hour of the film is pretty much comedy, turning a bit more dramatic for the second hour. The ending is a slow fizzle which attempts to wrap things up with an upbeat message when it really just rolls over and plays dead. But it doesn't matter. Unless you know for sure you don't like movies about teenagers, I highly recommend this film. It's a family film with a subversive yet sweet underbelly. Kids will get the weirdness and parents will never feel like things have gone too far. The characters are well-developed and likable and it's a very good looking film. A final shout out to both of the teenage actors. They do a remarkable job of channeling the opposite sex, mostly through body language and speech patterns. Switching - Goodbye Me should leave you smiling most of the way through.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Starring: Misako Renbutsu, Naoyuki Morita, Misa Shimizu, Saki Terashima

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