Call Me Chihiro Movie Review: An ode to the lost

Call Me Chihiro Movie Review: An ode to the lost

A slow slice-of-life drama that effectively captures a woman, who is looked down upon for having multiple sexual encounters, now having multiple ephemeral moments with strangers
Rating:(3 / 5)

In a scene from Call Me Chihiro, the titular character tells her former boss that she is at the bottom of the sea. He says, "Stay there as long as you need to and float back”. It's a delicate touch of solace to a suffering woman. It’s where we get to see vulnerability in the woman, Chihiro, a former sex worker who now works at a bento shop. She may be at the bottom of the sea, but her fleeting interactions with people allow her to slowly float up to the top.

Call Me Chihiro is a slice-of-life drama that captures the life of a woman who is condemned for having multiple sexual encounters but finds ephemeral peace through her interactions with strangers--like a meal with a homeless man during a lonely night. The randomness of these conversations comes as a relief to Chihiro's life, and helps us understand the human condition better.

Director: Rikiya Imaizumi

Cast: Kasumi Arimura, Hana Toyoshima, Tetta Shimada, and others

Call Me Chihiro sometimes feels like a yearning of how it would be to live a life full of moments that can surpass the barriers we put on ourselves. Pleasantly, these guards are blissfully removed when it is an encounter with a safe stranger. Through Chihiro’s encounters, it is refreshing and soothing to see how it is nice to have conversations purely based on that moment, rather than having any form of preconceived notions or baggage. 

However, what restricts this beautiful flow of conversations in Call Me Chihiro is the pacing. It is a film that requires energy and investment to be drawn into its world. Chihiro is a confluence of emotions and often bears influences from the people she meets. As she tolerates the lascivious customers at the bento shop with a smile, she also turns out to be a beacon of hope to the meek school girl, Kuniko, who comes from a patriarchal household. There is a moment when Chihiro thinks her former boss could be her father because he made no sexual advances on her. These are touching moments and reveal this character to us through slow, careful snapshots of her.  

In a way, the film is about learning to lead a life without shackles. It reminds us how even the people who feel most judged, let go of their guard when meeting a stranger. While there's value in the film's deliberate portrait of Chihiro, the slow pacing is a dampener, and the film also suffers from not having any real high points.

The film's cinematography is a definite positive. The frames allow the film to breathe, placing us in the idyllic seaside village, while the writing provides character with a definitive arc. A little too much silence in the film does rest your patience,  but such missteps notwithstanding, Call Me Chihiro can be said to be the movie equivalent of a warm hug from a stranger, at a time when you are crumbling on the inside.

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