“Straying”: The realities of a love quadrangle

The “L/R15” project to make two sex comedies rated R15, awarded to films deemed inappropriate for those under 15, brings together the talents of award-winning adult film specialist Hideo Jojo and Rikiya Imaizumi, a creator of light dramas about the romantic problems of young city dwellers.

The first to be released was “Love Nevertheless,” which was scripted by Imaizumi and directed by Jojo. For the second, “Straying”, the roles were reversed, with the direction of Imaizumi and the script of Jojo. Both films, however, feature a black and white cat.

The feline plays a central role in “Straying”, although this film is not one of many in Japan aimed at cat lovers. It has Imaizumi’s signature touches, starting with a romantic round that borders on farce, while comically revealing the weaknesses of its main four. Although it offers fewer laughs than “Love Nevertheless”, the film knows more about how sex can complicate and clarify relationships.

To park (Neko wa Nigeta )
Rating
Duration 109 mins.
Language Japanese
Open March 18

Plus, unlike so-called rosy movies that abruptly shift to full-throttle sex scenes every 10 minutes or so, “Straying” blurs the line between sexual and non-sexual. As the characters get into it, they complain about a cramping foot or comment on their partner’s grimaces, moments that are both humanly funny and real.

The story begins with Ako (Nairu Yamamoto), a modestly successful manga artist, and Hiro (Katsuya Maiguma), a disgruntled reporter for a sleazy tabloid, arguing over who will get their cat, Kanta, after their impending divorce. .

Their bickering is civilized — they don’t raise their voices or throw objects — but their pain is also real. Although they were once close, Hiro’s confession to Ako that he had an affair with a co-worker, Mamiko (Miyuu Teshima), destroyed the relationship.

A photographer for the same tabloid as Hiro, Mamiko is a disreputable pro at her job and unapologetic about her banter. But neither is she a stereotypical woman of petty virtue: just as Hiro harbors an unfulfilled ambition to be a novelist, Mamiko once wanted to be a photographer whose work would fill galleries, not tabloids. She is also in love with Hiro and suspects his divorce talk is insincere.

Meanwhile, Ako has his own adventure with Matsuyama (Kai Inowaki), a young manga magazine editor who visits his apartment to get his job back and provide sexual healing. Seemingly content to be the plaything of his charge, Matsuyama also wants something more, but is slow to reveal it.

Then one day, perhaps fed up with all the human commotion around him, Kanta slips through an open window and doesn’t come back. Ako and Hiro embark on a frantic search that leads to an unexpected twist – and the inevitable revelation of secrets. One revelation is that Kanta is also in a relationship – with Mimi, a nice neighbor’s cat.

As usual with female protagonists in Imaizumi films, Ako and Mamiko are complex beings with agency and individuality, not fancy objects for male viewers. They’re also sharper than their slow-absorbing partners, even if they’re barely flawless.

And while the film gets its R15 rating, it does so without the kind of tacky exploitation found in tabloids like the one that employs Mamiko and Hiro. Finally, the ending for Kanta and Mimi is wonderfully happy – and familial.

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