37 Seconds Review

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37 Seconds: Challenging Stereotypes with Grace and Empathy

The film 37 Seconds, written and directed by Hikari, tells an unconventional story with exceptional grace and empathy, shattering harmful stereotypes along the way. One aspect that immediately stands out is the portrayal of the protagonist, Yuka, a manga artist who has cerebral palsy. What makes this portrayal so remarkable is that the actress, Mei Kayama, actually has cerebral palsy in real life. This not only adds a sense of authenticity to the film, but also challenges societal biases by depicting a character with a disability in a refreshing and realistic manner.

Humanizing Yuka Through Cinematography

A particularly noteworthy decision by Hikari is the framing of shots in a way that often positions the camera at eye-level with Yuka. This deliberate choice serves to humanize her character and establish a deeper connection between the viewer and Yuka’s experiences. By consistently presenting the world through her eyes, the film fosters a sense of empathy and challenges the prejudices that society holds against individuals with disabilities. Through Yuka’s perspective, the audience witnesses how she is dismissed, demeaned, and even made to feel ashamed of her existence, shedding light on the pervasive discriminatory attitudes prevalent in Japanese society.

Smaller everyday moments, such as Yuka’s struggle with navigating inaccessible public spaces due to her wheelchair, further emphasize the ongoing inconveniences she faces. These instances highlight how society has not been designed with inclusivity in mind, placing additional barriers on Yuka’s path to independence and self-fulfillment.

Yuka’s Journey for Self-Actualization

The narrative of 37 Seconds centers around Yuka’s sexual awakening and her quest for personal independence. Throughout her life, she has been confined to the confines of her home, under the watchful and controlling eye of her mother, who constantly underestimates her abilities. Despite her mother’s stifling influence, Yuka yearns for freedom. When a manga company suggests that she needs new life experiences to improve her work, Yuka seizes the opportunity to explore the world on her own terms.

While the inciting incident may seem arbitrary, it propels Yuka into a journey of self-discovery and growth. The subsequent story may follow a somewhat predictable trajectory of sexual exploration and finding a place where she truly belongs, but Yuka’s character is so compelling that the narrative’s predictability becomes a minor concern. Mei Kayama’s portrayal of Yuka is filled with fervor, longing, and hidden pain, creating a character for whom audiences can’t help but root.

Animations Breathing Life into Yuka’s Imagination

One of the surprising elements of the film is the inclusion of brief interludes showcasing Yuka’s animations coming to life. These animated sequences provide a mesmerizing visual spectacle, particularly the presentation of a black and white sci-fi epic that Yuka works on. They offer insights into her creative process and reveal the inspiration she draws from the world around her.

These animated sequences, cleverly edited to resemble manga panels, create a striking juxtaposition between the real world and the world within Yuka’s imagination. The transition between frames and the occasional transformation of the real world into the black and white style of Yuka’s drawings bring a refreshing stylistic shift to the film, amplifying the depth of her character.

A Heartfelt Character Study with a Few Missteps

While 37 Seconds excels in its emotional engagement, it does stumble in certain aspects of its storytelling. In the third act, a shift towards conventional melodrama relies too heavily on the sudden introduction of a search for a long-lost relative, treading familiar territory. Additionally, some peripheral characters, such as Yuka’s friend Mae and her boss Sayaka, feel underdeveloped, lacking the depth and complexity given to Yuka.

However, despite these narrative imperfections, the film’s heart remains in the right place. 37 Seconds ultimately emerges as a graceful and vital character study. It challenges societal prejudices, portrays the experiences of a person with a disability with authenticity, and offers a heartfelt exploration of individuality, self-actualization, and the power of artistic expression.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is Mei Kayama, the actress who plays Yuka, actually living with cerebral palsy?

Yes, Mei Kayama, who portrays Yuka in 37 Seconds, has cerebral palsy in real life. This casting choice adds a significant layer of authenticity to the film’s portrayal of a character with a disability.

2. How does 37 Seconds challenge societal biases against individuals with disabilities?

Through its empathetic storytelling and depiction of Yuka’s experiences, 37 Seconds confronts societal prejudices and biases against people with disabilities. It humanizes Yuka and places the audience in her perspective, shedding light on the discrimination she faces and the daily challenges posed by an inaccessible society.

3. What role does animation play in the film?

Animation serves as a creative form of expression for Yuka in the film. These animated interludes demonstrate her imaginative world and highlight the inspiration she draws from her surroundings. They add depth to her character and offer a stylistic shift within the film.

4. Does 37 Seconds solely focus on Yuka’s sexual awakening?

While Yuka’s sexual awakening is an essential aspect of the narrative, the film delves into broader themes of personal independence, self-discovery, and the pursuit of creative fulfillment. It explores the barriers Yuka faces in her journey for self-actualization.

5. How does 37 Seconds contribute to the representation of disabilities in cinema?

37 Seconds makes significant strides in representing disabilities authentically in cinema. By casting an actress with cerebral palsy in the lead role and presenting the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, the film fosters a more inclusive and accurate portrayal in the realm of storytelling.