Running time: 70 min.
Reviewed by David Lam
Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi “2LDK” feels as if it was adapted from a stage play. It features two actresses squaring off in a confined apartment. That’s it, they talk, bicker and maim each other with household products. Similar to Ryuhei Kitamura's film “Aragami”, producer Shinya Kawai offered the same challenge to Yukihiko Tsutsumi: Make a feature length film using only two actors, one setting and the story has to all take place within one week. It’s an interesting challenge and the filmmaker certainly makes the most out of it.
Nozomi (Eiko Koike) and Rana (Maho Nonami) are actresses who are brought together when they both audition for the same role in a film called “Yakuza Wives”. They end up sharing an apartment in Tokyo while waiting to know who got the part. Right off the bat, the filmmakers waste no time in establishing the dichotomy between the two girls. Nozomi, who’s from Sado Island is sly and soft spoken, while Rana is the hip city girl with the flashy appearance and brass attitude. The film starts slowly, focusing on the girls moving in and getting to know each other. The more they become familiar with one and other though, the quicker the veneer of politeness fades. The straight lace nature of Nozomi soon starts to clash with the outspokenness of Rana and pretty soon they’re coming up with ways to intentionally aggravate each other. As the animosity begins to escalate, the methods they use to express their frustration begins to rise as well. Verbal spats turn into scuffles and then all Hell breaks loose.
As dark as the film gets at times, the escalation of violence is portrayed in such an outrageous manner that it ends up being more cartoonish than disturbing. The script at first seems frivolous but as the film unfolds it starts to become more apparent what the filmmakers are trying to convey. Through the rivalry between the girls we can see how violence works. It is usually the smallest of altercations that serve as a spark for something more severe. While other films struggle to provide a legitimate reason for violence, “2LDK” provides a strong one. The central characters are so diametrically opposed that the tension can only be contained for so long. They are competing for the same role, from different walks of life, have constrasting personalities and are both trying to inhabit in the same space. Their outburst in rage is essentially a manifestation of their need for complete and total annihilation of the opposing side.
Despite the tension and intensity, “2LDK” also manages to be quite funny. Watching the girls’ argue over the most mundane things like the food in the refrigerator is amusing but juxtaposes those moments with some of the more over the top brawls and it sort of becomes a comedy. In addition, the script also takes many gabs at consumerism and the mild-manner nature of the Japanese. Rana is obsessed with brands and in an early scene is busy listing off all of her prized possessions while Nozomi is at first presented as a meek overachiever but throws everyone off guard as she gets more and more aggressive towards Rana.
As fun as some of the no holds barred fights in the film are, it does get a little tiring towards the end. Tsutsumi keeps upping the ante with the sword fights and face smashing but it starts to feel redundant and you become disengaged with the proceedings because neither characters are really worth rooting for. With such an intriguing premise, you would expect the film to end in a less predictable manner but it never transcends its setup and goes exactly where you expect it too. It’s unfortunate because the film starts off with such an offbeat note and does so many things cleverly only to leave its viewers disappointed with such a hokey ending.
Read more by David Lam at his blog