Review: First Love (Fantastic Fest 2019)


Title: First Love
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Sakurako Konishi, Masataka Kubota, Jun Murakami
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins

What It Is: Leo (Kubota) is a highly trained boxer. When he suffers an injury in the ring he goes to the doctor. He is told that he has an inoperable brain tumor. That his return to the ring will not happen. Brenda (Konishi) is a concubine. Working against her will to pay off her father’s debts. When Monica runs away from a crooked cop she runs into Leo who saves her from that situation. Now the two are caught in a war between the Yakuza and the Chinese Mafia.

What We Think: Miike is so prolific, so vast in the styles he works in it is a completely difficult task to pinpoint “his style”. If I had to pick out a film that sums up what I THINK his style is this would be it. It’s a lofty tale. The type of film that only a master such as Miike could wrangle. There’s a bit too much going on here, and most of it hits. Sadly the parts that don’t drag down the film. Outside of that, it’s so well-written every end gets completed leaving both audience and character satisfied. That ending though…leaves a lot to be desired.

Our Grade: B+, Oh you’re damned right I recommend this film. For fans of Miike it’ll seem old hat but I think this has some accessibility for those that aren’t familiar with his work. This could prove an excellent starting point. Some great performances and Miike’s watchful eye all leave you with a film that’s so enjoyable for all the right reasons. Truly one of the Fantastic Fests more entertaining offerings. Those who are afraid of subtitles…well…WTF are you even doing here?

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