Director: Sho Tsukikawa
Cast: Minami Hamabe, Takumi Kitamura, Shun Oguri, Keiko Kitagawa, Karen Otomo
Runtime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 14 September 2017
Synopsis: Sakura Yamauchi (Minami Hamabe) and “I” (Takumi KItamura) were former high school classmates. Inspired by Sakura’s words, “I” (Shun Oguri) has now become a teacher at the school they both attended. While talking to his students, he is reminded of the many days he spent with Sakura. Sakura, who was suffering from a disease of the pancreas, kept a diary of her struggle against her illness and how she tried to live with it. After he discovers the diary by chance one day, “I” and Sakura gradually start to spend more time together. Sakura is determined to live out her days brilliantly, but finally, the end draws near. Twelve years after her death, her best friend Kyoko (Karen Otomo/Keiko Kitagawa), who is soon to marry, also begins to remember the time she spent with Sakura, just as “I” does. Then, because of something that happens, the two realize what Sakura really wanted to convey over the distance of those 12 years.
With Halloween being just around the corner, it’s no wonder that some people may mistake Let me eat your pancreas as a horror movie. Ironically, it has nothing to do with the horror genre; it is in fact a romance / drama movie. This movie is adapted from a popular Japanese novel of the same name (literally translates to “I want to eat your pancreas”). Its main narrative is about a girl called Sakura (played by Minami Hamabe) and the ‘legacies’ she left behind.
‘I’ had his life turned topsy-turvy when he accidentally learned about Sakura’s sickness 12 years ago. What appeared to be a chance encounter disrupted his world and changed his perspectives since. The movie starts off with ‘I’ (adult played by Shun Oguri) working as a teacher and it was later revealed how that decision was also influenced by Sakura, despite his naturally introverted nature. The movie progresses with him relating to his student about the memories shared with Sakura, as they were working on a project to vacate the school’s library. The library was somewhat pivotal, where much of the memories between Sakura and ‘I’ were formed.
The movie uses flashbacks to bring the viewers back in time to progress along with the blossoming friendship between ‘I’ and Sakura. As typical of any high school drama, Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko (played by Karen Otomo), acts as the jealous one, who cannot understand why a boy suddenly grew so close to Sakura. Despite having an incurable disease, Sakura masked her discomfort in front of others, and only reveals part of her vulnerability to ‘I’, as he seems the most composed and different. He played along with her moves till but grew frustrated as he found he’s constantly being tugged in her directions. Predictably, they had a fight but came to consensus that they care for one another and that none of it was of any coincidence. (Best explained by Sakura in the movie! The lines were poetic and beautiful.)
Some people have criticized the movie for being too typical and single dimensional. However, while the high school drama part and the ambiguous relationship were very predictable, the movie has chosen to convey their sentiment about the meaning of life. And that focus was rightly positioned, and tells a moving and coherent tale from beginning to finish. The unexpected plot twist nearing the movie’s end further accentuates the drama and tugs the right heart strings.
The end of the movie trailer says, “At its conclusion, you’ll cry at this title”. Indeed, that holds true. Taking my hats off to the Japanese for the attention to details, and ending the movie so poignantly with backdrop of the fully bloomed cherry blossoms. As with the Japanese’s obsession with cherry blossoms, there’s a common expression which says, “It’s precisely because sakura is fleeting, that’s why it’s beautiful.” Subtly establishing that parallel between Sakura’s life and that fleeting beauty scores a home run. More than just a tear jerker, Let me eat your pancreas is a moving expression of love for life and friends!
P.S.: An animated movie of the same name is scheduled for release in 2018.
(If you haven’t been crying for weeks, months of even years, dare you to take the challenge against ‘Let me eat your pancreas’. We bet you’ll need a pack of tissue, or even two!)
Review by Tho Shu Ling