Review: 37 Seconds (37 sekanzu)

Mei Kayama in 37 seconds

37 Seconds (37 sekanzu) is a Japanese language film about a 23 year old woman with cerebral palsy. It’s a beautiful film, one of the finest films of the year. I completely recommend it.

37 Seconds (37 sekanzu) stars Mei Kayama as Yuma. Mei Kayama has cerebral palsy in real life. This is her first role as an actress. She is wonderful. If the story is meant to show that people with disabilities are just like everyone else, it certainly succeeds.

Yuma is a talented Manga artist. She’s employed by her cousin (Minori Hagiwara). Her cousin is a famous YouTube star. She takes Yuma’s work and sells it as her own, paying Yuma very little.

Yuma tries sending her own comics to her cousin’s publisher. It is rejected. She discovers some Manga magazines discarded in the street and decides to take her samples to the one of them. They answered a cold call. The place is a p0rn shop, but the editor (Yuka Itaya) Yuma meets recognizes Yuma’s talent and tells her to learn something about sex so she can depict it authentically and then come back.

Misuzu Kanno in 37 Seconds
Misuzu Kanno is marvelous as Yuma’s mother

Yuma lives with her mother (Misuzu Kanno), who helps her and cares for her. Yuma is excited about a possible job opportunity, but she keeps that news from her mother. She lies about where she’s going and speeds away. Yuma heads straight for the sex shops and sex for sale section of Tokyo. She hires a male prostitute. That experience doesn’t work out as desired.

As she’s waiting to leave, struggling with a broken elevator, she meets the person who will change her life. Mai (Makiko Watanabe) is a prostitute. With her is a man in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy. He’s Mai’s client. Mai helps with the elevator problem and has her driver friend Toshiya (Shunsuke Daitô) take both her client and Yuma home. They get acquainted as Mai rides along.

Mei Kayama and Shunsuke Daitô in 37 Seconds
We are going places.

Mai and Toshiya are accepting and understanding. They become Yuma’s friends. Toshiya takes her on an adventure that completely upends her life and her mother’s life.

Yuma is a sweet, trusting, innocent. A beautiful soul. In Mai and Toshiya she finds two people on the bottom rungs of society who treat her with kindness and respect. What happens with them opens her to new discoveries about her parents and her life. Symbols of freedom such as flying birds abound as the story winds to a conclusion.

Written and directed by Hikari, the film is intimate and sensitive. It’s Hikari’s first feature film. I can’t wait to see more from her. Yuma is a fully developed woman coming of age and coming into her independence. It’s beautifully shot, mostly staying with Yuma as she explores her career options and future. The reveals are well written and unexpected each time.

Hollywood needs many lessons in how to tell a story well with a disabled character in the lead. 37 Seconds is lesson number 1.

37 Seconds is streaming on Netflix.

Poster for 37 Seconds

Have a look at the trailer.

Are you going to watch this film? Please share your thoughts below if you do.

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

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