JFF 2024 Film Review: We Made a Beautiful Bouquet (1st of a series)

I discovered Japanese Film Festival Online 2024 while doomscrolling on Facebook. It’s been awhile since I watched a Japanese film, the last being Makoto Shinkai’s “Weathering with You” which I watched on the big screen. The film festival has a diverse genre of 20 films available for free streaming from June 5 to June 19. Despite attempting to view the complete lineup, I could only muster watching  three and a half films given my erratic life schedule- We Made a Beautiful Bouquet; My Broken Mariko; I am what I am and  the half-finished samurai comedy film We’re Broke, My Lord! . The latter is cute and hilarious but I was only able to watch half of the film since piled-up, unwashed dishes on the sink were calling my name. When I resumed watching, streaming was already unavailable for the entire movie catalog. What a bummer. Maybe the JFF organizers can make next year’s online film festival a two-month event? There’s no way I can  marathon watch 4-5 films in a weekend. I would have loved to watch all the films in the lineup. 

I didn’t regret watching the films I randomly selected, starting with the beautifully color graded “We Made a Beautiful Bouquet” starring Masaki Suda (Mugi) and Kasumi Arimura (Kinu). I particularly like the visual tone and texture of this film- the grainy, deep autumnal filter that evokes a cozy feeling of being in a cafe with wooden interiors. 

In this film, two university students find themselves in a late night bar after missing the last Keio train to Tokyo. They hit off right away, fall passionately in love and in true whirlwind fashion decide to move in together in a quaint apartment facing the scenic Tama River. The highlight of this movie would have to be the couple adopting a cute kitten one wintry New Year’s night. The English subtitle hovers on the scene where the new kitten (a grey British Shorthair) is fed and named. “Naming a cat is one of the most sacred things you can do,” the subtitle says. 

As twenty-two year olds trying to navigate the adulting life, Mugi and Kinu go through a series of challenges and setbacks that rigorously test their idealistic notions of romantic love and youthful dreams. Their relationship eventually runs its course and unravels in a poignant scene where they mutually decide to part ways in a cafe where they used to date as university students. Despite the tears, Kinu expressed her desire to keep the cat after their split.

After a tight farewell embrace and shedding of copious tears under a streetlight, the scene gently fades into black and a sunlit apartment comes into full view. We see that Mugi and Kinu have consciously uncoupled and have decided to peacefully move on with their separate lives yet remaining to be friends. They trade erstwhile jokes while boxing remnants of memories they have shared for the past five years. They appear comfortably settled with their separation that they even tease each other if anyone of them has ever been unfaithful during the time they were together. I found this scene particularly funny because it looks like a relationship exit interview minus the post-breakup wailing. 

To settle who gets custody of the cute cat, they play rock, paper and scissors and the feline officially goes to Mugi. Fast forward to a scene where Kinu waits for her new boyfriend at the entrance of a bakery. They walk off into a street while another couple follows. It's Mugi and his new girlfriend. The two couples go their opposite ways with Mugi and Kinu waving to each other with their backs turned. So long, first love. This scene is bittersweet like your first taste of Cafe Americano. 

I enjoyed the warm and cozy visuals of this film despite the predictable plot. The blossoming and unraveling of youthful love confirms the reality that we already know. A starter pack love affair always comes with risks and uncertainty. Young couples outgrow each other while searching for self-identity. Youthful dreams and ambitions may become a priority whilst romantic relationships remain in the sidelines. Whichever romantic side of the coin you are on, you will never know if a relationship will work out or not unless you try. Whatever the outcome whether it ends in marriage or separation, make a beautiful bouquet. 

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