My Little Monster's oddball romance just about works

Tao Tsuchiya plays high school student Shizuku Mizutani, who puts on an icy exterior to protect her emotions.
Tao Tsuchiya plays high school student Shizuku Mizutani, who puts on an icy exterior to protect her emotions. PHOTO: CATHAY CINEPLEXES



105 minutes/Opens today/3 stars

The story: High school student Shizuku Mizutani (Tao Tsuchiya) is interested only in studying and has no time for friendships or boys. One day, she is tasked to deliver notes to the often-absent Haru Yoshida (Masaki Suda), who then bursts into her life like a manic ball of energy. Soon, they are surrounded by an unlikely assortment of firm friends. And Haru starts to fall for Shizuku. Based on the popular manga of the same name (2008 to 2013).

My Little Monster may be a live-action film, but its exaggerated comic tone clearly points to its manga origin.

With a messy mop of hair and an exuberant demeanour, Suda (Death Note: Light Up The New World, 2016) is quite well cast as Haru.

The little monster of the title shows his emotions nakedly like a little boy, be it stomping his feet when he does not get his way or smiling delightedly when he is happy.

He has a clear sense of what's right and wrong and will not hesitate to go after bullies, even if it means getting punished for it.

In contrast, Shizuku, a coolly aloof Tsuchiya (The 8-Year Engagement, 2017), buries herself in books and distances herself from the world around her. That icy exterior turns out to be a protective cloak for a girl who has been disappointed one too many times by her busy mother.

The oddball romance just about works, though director Sho Tsukikawa (romance drama Let Me Eat Your Pancreas, 2017) is interested in more than that.

Shizuku starts to melt not just because of the little monster, but also because of the connections she forms with others - from pretty but lonely classmate Asako Natsume (Elaiza Ikeda) to Haru's easy-going cousin (Mokomichi Hayami), who runs a batting cage centre.

The movie is also about the importance of friendship, how fleeting moments of kindness can mean so much and life lessons one learns in the process of growing up: Hard work doesn't always pay off and you can't control people's feelings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2018, with the headline 'Oddball romance that just about works'. Print Edition | Subscribe