Some films defy description, and on paper at least, Fine, Totally Fine reads like one of the dullest movies ever made. Dig a little deeper and you will discover one of the freshest and funniest films of the year. Teruo (YosiYosi Arakawa) is in his late twenties, working as a park tree trimmer and living at home with his family. In his spare time he helps out at his fathers second-hand bookshop and dreams one day of building the ultimate haunted house. He demonstrates his love of scares with the aid of homemade dummies and random spurts of comedy genius.
Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada) is one of his oldest friends, not to mention one of the nicest guys in the entire world. He works as a hospital administrator and it’s here that we meet Akari (Yoshino Kimura), an attractive young girl who just might be the clumsiest person in the entire world. Our three charming leads, and a collection of suitably surreal characters, spend the rest of the movie bumbling about their lives, barely surviving the day-to-day endeavours of everyday existence. Romance is shoehorned in towards the end of the movie, but Fine, Totally Fine never resorts to generic genre convention; it’s just not that kind of film.
Fine, Totally Fine is blessed with an endearing assortment of characters, honed comedic talent and a wonderfully witty script. Arakawa stands out from the crowd as our loveable protagonist, and without wanting to sound too harsh, YoshiYoshi was born with the perfect face for comedy. Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada) isn’t as boisterous as his farcical companion but possesses enough charm to see him through. Akari (Yoshino Kimura) is both sweet and endearing, so it’s easy to see why our leading men end up – quite literally – fighting for her affection.
It’s hard to explain how a scene involving Akari taping up a cardboard box is so breathtakingly funny, but comedy timing is key to the films success, and watching her carry on regardless is one of the films many highlights; she even has trouble opening boxes of tissues. It’s probably best if I let you discover the elevator scene for yourself. The supporting characters are just as engaging as the three leads, with Teruo’s father proving particularly memorable. Here’s a guy who’s clearly having a mental breakdown, spending the majority of the film either dumbfounded or stone cold silent. It’s his facial ticks that had me in stitches every time; somebody really should give the guy his own movie.
In truth, not a lot actually happens in Fine, Totally Fine, which some viewers might find disturbing. It’s the whimsical journey of three friends who have achieved very little in life. Yosuke Fujita sends them off on a voyage of self-discovery where dreams are largely left unfulfilled and hope is lost in the tedium of life. If that’s not your cup of tea then so be it, because at just under two hours long it will likely try the patience of Japanese film fans raised on a diet of nerve-shredding terror and gangster warfare.
At the end of the day Fine, Totally Fine is just fine, totally fine. You’ll be hard pushed to find a more charming film this year. AW