DOG IN A SIDECAR – New York Asian Film Festival

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Yoko Takeuchi (The Ring), stars in Director Kichitaro Negishi’s new film, “Dog in a Sidecar”, based on the award winning novel by Yu Nagashima. The story centers around a blossoming friendship  between an innocent little girl and her father’s rough around the edges mistress. Kana Matsumoto plays the little girl, Kaoru Kondo whose mother (Sawa Suzuki) gets fed up and leaves both her and her younger brother Taro (Takeru Taniyama) to fend for themselves until…Yoko arrives.

However, I’m jumping the gun a little, we begin our story with a grown up Kaoru (Mimura) who has a career as a real estate agent. Seemingly unfulfilled with catering the whims of picky clientele, she ends up assisting a man at a local fishing pond.  An introverted young girl approaches and asks her to help bait a hook. The girl sparks a memory about how she was at that young age. Hence, we are catapulted back to Kaoru’s past.

Kaoru’s father who excels in mediocrity (Arata Furuta), after numerous failed attempts, continues to try to make a name for himself in the used car business. Meanwhile, Kaoru’s mother is swelling with animosity to a point where she just gets up and leaves. As fate has it, another woman, riding astride her German designed green bicycle, named Yoko enters the scene. Entering the Kondo home rather abruptly, she whips out a cigarette and claims she’s come to cook dinner for them. Yoko is the polar opposite of what Kaoru has been accustomed to, as evident, she is persistently heard saying throughout the film, “mom won’t like this or mom won’t like that”. Still holding true to what is right, with her innate sense of justice, Yoko comes to admire the young girl’s integrity.

Whether it’s catering to Kaoru’s sweet tooth with chocolate-covered wheat balls, or teaching Kaoru how to ride her bicycle, a bond has been formed between them. Yoko notices a little of her in Kaoru and takes her under her wing.  
Next, they embark on a summer trip together and grow closer. Kaoru’s view of the world expands to begin to see eye to eye with what Yoko sees. Whatever wisdom Yoko imparts to her counterpart, Kaoru takes it to heart.
The story is simple, how it’s conveyed is equally as simplistic- shy girl meets girl of the world…they become friends during the carefree days of summer. There you have it, but there are more subtle nuisances than meets the eye, well rounded characters that bring light hearted humor, affection and an array of emotional squalls.

Both Yoko and Kaoru are what make the film, it’s their rapport, their interaction, what they learn from each other is what moves the film along at a nice easy pace. “Dog in a Sidecar” is a delightful film, a feel good film- filled with nostalgia and fond memories of younger days we can relate to.

Catch more films like this one at the NYAFF, sponsored in conjunction with the Japan Society: contact 212-924-7771 for more information. www.subwaycinema.com

***1/2
Weak: 1 Star   Average: 2 Stars   Good: 3 Stars   Very Good: 4 Stars   Excellent: 5 Stars

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Tobe R. Roberts

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