Melancholic follows Kazuhiko (Yôji Minagawa). He is a listless young man wandering through life. After graduating from Tokyo University, a highly respected university in Japan, Kazuhiko has spent years going from part-time job to part-time job not finding any kind of purpose. He still lives with his parents and has no prospects in life. He’s an introvert, he won’t interact with his parents or anyone else for that matter.
Enter old classmate Yuri. She’s lovely, bubbly and wants to reconnect with Kazuhiko. They head along to their class reunion despite his reservations. After an intimate conversation, she suggests he takes a job at the local bathhouse that she frequents, likely a reason to see him more.
He gets the job and everything is going well, until one night he notices something suspect about his new boss and one of his colleagues. They’ve killed someone and are using the bathhouse as a way to clean up after themselves. Now knowing too much, Kazuhiko is pulled into their world of detergent and blood. What follows is one of the weirdest, most genuine and fun films I’ve seen in a long time.
Melancholic – A bit of soap will get that right out
Melancholic is one of those films I would not have seen if not for festivals like the Japanese Film Festival Ireland. It came out in 2018, and from my memory had no kind of release here and that’s a shame because this film has something for everyone. There’s a delightfully dark comedy running throughout the whole film for example.
You’re not quite sure how Kazuhiko will react as his world drastically changes over the course of a few days. Couple that with his relationship with fellow cleaner Matsumoto (Yoshitomo Isozaki), who is a flaky but well-meaning type of guy with surprising levels of depth.
Kazuhiko himself is the type of guy who fades into the background. At the beginning of the film he seems content with his lot in life, but as the story progresses and his relationships grow with his newfound friends he begins to want more out of life and cares more for his life.
When the blood and detergent mix
The mundane and the morbid tones of Melancholic are equally engaging. Seeing Kazuhiko’s relationship with Yuri progress is sweet and charming. Then you have the jobs at the bathhouse which seem to be giving Kazuhiko a strange kind of purpose and that is simply fascinating to watch unfold. So when the two merge and flow into each other, they strangely compliment each other because you care about the characters and their weird lives.
There is an amateurish quality to how the film is shot, one scene that comes to mind is Kazuhiko and Yuri’s first date. It just feels off, but this could be on purpose as this awkwardness could be coming from Kazuhiko’s perspective.
Melancholic is also quite a low budget affair as the weapons at times are clearly props. An example of this is a plastic knife that is in shot for far too long.
Keeping with the offbeat nature of the film is the score, which keeps you off-kilter as you watch Kazuhiko stumble between a mundane and morbid lifestyle. Neither of which he is particularly suited to, but maybe there’s somewhere in between for him.
Melancholic is a brilliant film and as I stated earlier a perfect reason to head to festivals like the Japanese Film Festival Ireland. Check it out and hopefully next year we can enjoy all the new ones together in a cinema.