Nobuhiro’s Yamashita’s 2005 film Linda Linda Linda is a coming of age story which touches on the issues of friendship, teen angst, loyalty, relationships and the bonding power of music.
The film follow four high school girls as they work and parry in order to perform three musical numbers at their high schools annual culture festival. Kei (Kashii Yu) is the group’s hot headed leader and guitarist. Her stubbornness and combative personality has forced one of the band members (Rinko) to depart, which has left the band shorthanded. Kyoko (Aki Maeda), the group’s drummer, is a friendly and free spirited girl whose loyalty is tested when her growing crush on a boy causes her to miss practices and jeopardize the group’s chances of being prepared in time for the show.
Nozomi is the shy bass player of the group who has a very serious approach, and is coming from an over packed home where she receives little attention. The three girls set out to find a replacement vocalist for the group and eventually they encounter Son (Bae Du-Na), a Korean foreign exchange student who speaks very little Japanese. When the girls rehearse together for the first time they deliver a very terrible but very comical performance and collectively they come to the conclusion that they have a long way to go. The films cross-cuts between each of the girls struggle to perfect their parts. Through these short scenes we are given insight to each of their personal lives. Nozomi is experiencing difficulty practicing as she is in a small cramped room surrounded by her younger siblings, Kyoko abandons her drumsticks in order to take a phone call from her crush, Kei is discussing the circumstances of Rinko departure with another group member who had also left the group, and in one of the most memorable scenes of the films Son is experiencing the difficulties with the language and cultural barriers while trying to enter a Karaoke bar to practice her singing. As the story progresses the girls outside relationships slowly deter them away from their goal of performing at the festival. Kei is reunited with an ex-boyfriend when she is forced to ask for his help in finding a studio to rehearse, Kyoko feelings for her crush deepens, and Son is approached by another student who admits his love for her in the schools music room. Son immediately turns down the students advances while Kei’s and Kyoko’s love ties are drawn out until the day of the performance. Eventually the girls realize that their friendship, values, (and of course love of punk music) supersedes the other issues in their lives, and on the day of the festival (although delayed a few hours due to oversleeping) they deliver an emotionally driven performance to their fellow students.
The film is very simple in its story, dialogue, and visual presentation. The characters are defined more by the implied consequences of their past experiences rather than their present actions and dealings with one another. This technique is very effective in the sense that it allows the viewer to feel that this story could occur and any given time or place. The audience is thrust into the story at what appears to be its climax rather than its introduction. There is very little dialogue in the film, and when there is extended conversations it usually revolves around the issues of Son’s inability to fluently speak the Japanese language. This lack of dialogue immensely hampers character development, and when dealing with a lazy or less experienced viewer, the story can play out as boring and slow. The scenes are very long and oftentimes uneventful.
With many empty shots of the schools exterior coupled with the blank and confused faces of the main characters, these scenes can be categorized as nothing other than filler. The film does have a good number of lighter moments, most of which surround Son and her never ending struggle to acclimate herself to the culture and language of Japan. These scenes save the film from being a slow and vague trek through the halls of high school.
Linda Linda Linda is the definition of the term “Slice of Life”. The film is not particularly deep, but it is not trying to be. The film gives a naturalistic portrayal of love, commitment, the importance of sticking to your goals, and the comfort that can be found within the bonds of friendships.