Possibly the best movie that I’ve seen in the past few months, 100 Yen Love is a story of many things-romantic love, female empowerment and determination all rolled into one digestible and immaculately executed package. Directed by Masaharu Take and starring Sakura Ando as down-and-out college dropout Ichigo, the film follows Ando on a journey of 360 degree transformation as she is kicked out of her parents’ house at the age of 32 and forced to earn her keep, meeting some savoury and unsavoury romantic interests along the way as she follows her newfound passion for boxing.

Ando is phenomenal as Ichigo, a dumpy woman with the face of a sulky teen. Despite her bad behaviour at the start of the movie, her screen presence is inimitable and is well relatable for audiences. Despite her straightfaced personality, Ando impressively manages to pull off each emotional nuance with ease and fluency; allowing the audience into her introverted world rather than shutting them out along with seemingly the rest of the world. Her yearning for love and success is one that is raw in its delivery, striking deep into the hearts of audiences everywhere.

The deliberately bland, small-town scenery is jazzed up by some excellent cinematography, peppering the film with interesting shot angles that serve well in capturing Ichigo’s innermost thoughts on an even more intimate level. Although you might think the plotline was too varied in the amount of themes squeezed into it, director Take pulls it off with ease, neatly transitioning from themes of gaining independence to romantic love, followed by a falling out of love and finally Ichigo’s focus on becoming a boxing champion. Every single hormone you could think of-adrenaline, oxytocin and testosterone is ignited in the course of the movie in manageable spurts that cowards like me especially appreciate.

Like the title of the movie suggests, this story cannot be categorised truly as a sports or drama or comedy flick; but is a stark and real representation of living life like a 100 yen store. Toeing the line between rock bottom and barely getting by, this is a story of survival, not of success, a story of life, not just of love or anything else. Although Ichigo seems never to succeed, in taking this journey with her what I realised what that even more important than succeeding is the willpower to keep on surviving. And that’s a powerful take-home message that has made 100 Yen Love one of the most memorable films of my year, deserving a place on my must-watch list.

Review score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Catch the Japanese Film Festival in Adelaide October 30 – November 8, Sydney November 5 – 15 and Melbourne November 26 – December 6.

Visit Japanese Film Festival for more information and session times.