It’s impossible that when writer/director Akiko Ooku adapted the screenplay for Risa Wataya’s novel Tremble All You Want in 2017 about a young woman who isolates herself, could have known that three years later we would be watching the film while socially distancing. Curated by the Tokyo Film Festival for We Are One: A Global Film Festival, Tremble is not your average romantic comedy.
Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) is a self-possessed 24-year-old office worker, but her past is always on her mind. For the past 10 years, she’s harbored a secret crush on her middle school classmate Ichimiya (Takumi Kitamura)—or “Ichi” (One)—and her unrequited yearning has made it difficult for her to move on, or even consider dating other people.
One day, her colleague (Daichi Watanabe)—whom she privately calls “Ni” (Two)—asks her out, but out of loyalty to Ichi, she has trouble pursuing this new romance. When Yoshika realizes that she needs to see Ichi again, she organizes a class reunion, but things don’t quite go as she’d planned.
Akiko Ooku’s fresh and funny adaptation of Risa Wataya’s award-winning novel thrums along Matsuoka’s livewire energy. As she opens up about her love triangle to her friends, she’s also admitting the extent of her fantasies to herself, but just how she’ll choose to regain control is open to interpretation.
From start to finish, Tremble All You Want keeps the viewer curious. While we are fixated on Yohsika and her school-girl crush, the lines of reality and fantasy always seem blurred as the story unfolds. Her interactions with her neighbor, the fisherman, the lady on the bus, and more flow like a dream-sequence, and we’re left wondering if it will all come to a head. When it does, it’s beautifully done.
Ooki’s direction and Mayu Matsouka in her first starring role really shine in this film. Even when Yohiska is unlikeable, we can’t help but root for her and hope for her happiness. The build up to seeing her crush Ichimiya is so much fun, and Takumi Kitamura does a great job playing him. We all had a crush like that in grade school, an object of affection who was shy, aloof, and too good-looking for their own good.
Ni, played by Daichi Watanabe completes the love triangle. Watanabe is goofy and charming, and has great chemistry with Mayu Matsouka. This film is so perfectly cast, that even the surreal seems believable. It’s a rom-com mixed with indie-film artistry and great performances. A joy to watch.