Japanese Film Festival 2018 Review: The 8-year Engagement is a romantic tear-jerker worth watching

The 8-year Engagement follows a couple, Hisashi Nishizawa and Mai Nakahara, who are freshly engaged but meet tragedy when Mai falls into a four-year-long coma. When she wakes up, she must learn to navigate the world again with a fiance she has no memory of. The film is based on an incredible true story that happened in 2007 and director Takahisa Zeze does an incredible job showing Hisashi’s optimism and devotion to his fiance.

As a film of the romance genre, you’d might write it off as a cliche: girl gets sick, falls into a coma, wakes up with no memory of her lover but falls in love again. But this trope is a time-tested formula and is delivered beautifully by Takahisa. Of course, the fact that the film is based on a true story helps with its believability.

In fact, if it weren’t based on a true story, Hisashi’s (Takeru Sato) honest and naive character would seem a little unbelievable to some audiences. He remains by Mai’s (Tao Tsuchiya) side all throughout the first and second acts of the film, helping her during her coma and through her rehabilitation. During Mai’s coma, we learn more about Hisashi’s character and his motivations for being a mechanic as well as his undying devotion to Mai. However, it becomes clear that while Tao Tsuchiya does an incredible job at being Mai (especially in the scenes before she’s in the coma), it is Takeru Sato’s character that is more fully realised. That being said, it is his story.

Without giving too much away, the couple then separates for a while as Hisashi believes it’d be best for Mai to part with her and it seems like all hope is lost for them. Don’t worry though, it’s a happy ending for both of them as they get back together despite Mai still unable to remember their past.

The supporting characters, primarily Mai’s parents, are great too. Hiroko Yakushimaru and Tetto Sugimura, who play Mai’s mother and father respectively, do a wonderful job in portraying a parent’s emotions and thought processes when it comes to protecting their child. Their scenes with Takeru’s Hisashi were really well done and brought a tear to my eye.

A con of the film might be the overuse of the date counter when explaining the time jumps. The audience would’ve easily understood the passage of time with dates or the number of months that have passed as opposed to the date counter. While I understood the director’s choice in doing so as to show how much time had passed, it felt like a cop out especially towards the end of the film- as if he was trying to quickly wrap it up.

However, if you can forgive such a minor detail then The 8-year Engagement is definitely worth watching. This is a simple, no-frills film based on the most amazing, complicated of engagements. If you’re a sucker for a romantic tear-jerker, then this is the film for you!

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The 8-year Engagement has one final screening as part of the Japanese Film Festival in Australia, this Thursday night. For more details head here: https://japanesefilmfestival.net/film/the-8-year-engagement/