REVIEW / ROMANCE DRAMA
LET ME EAT YOUR PANCREAS (PG)
115 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars
The story: Popular high-school student Sakura Yamauchi (Minami Hamabe) is dying as her pancreas is failing. Her unnamed geeky librarian classmate (Takumi Kitamura) stumbles upon her diary and learns her secret. As she draws him out of his shell, he helps her to fulfil her bucket-list wishes. Based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Yoru Sumino.
Never mind its fantasy horror title, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is actually an old-fashioned tearjerker.
There is a burgeoning romance and a girl with a terminal disease who is outwardly cheerful and optimistic. One would not know that she is seriously ill just by looking at her.
Hamabe brings a sunny chirpiness and a touching vulnerability to the role of a young girl confronting her mortality. Her character, Sakura, is not made out to be a saint as she is curious about sex. However, her attempts at seduction are valiantly resisted, sometimes to almost comic effect, by Kitamura's character, who remains unnamed throughout the film.
The growing friendship with her classmate seems unlikely, given that they are on opposite ends of the popularity spectrum, but as she says to him: "You're the only one who can keep my life normal."
Kitamura, a member of Japanese pop-rock band Dish, gives a sensitive performance as his restrained character slowly opens up. It also makes his breakdown late in the movie that much more moving.
Director Sho Tsukikawa (The 100th Love With You, 2017) is deft with the emotional scenes, letting them land with an impact that stings.
He overdoes it a bit with the soft focus and light-filled scenes, although the shots featuring cherry blossoms in full bloom are admittedly gorgeous.
The movie also jumps forward 12 years, a period that is not covered in the book. It shows the impact Sakura has had on the male protagonist (now played by Shun Oguri), as he was nudged to become a teacher at their school because of something she said; and on her best friend, Kyoko (adult version played by Keiko Kitagawa), who was puzzled by and jealous of their closeness.
The memory of her still burns bright for them.