Friday, July 31, 2020

Movie Review: IN FULL BLOOM

As a film lover, I’ve dove into pretty much every genre there is - from cheesy rom-coms, to splattergore horror, to existential dramas - but two genres I don’t typically jump to are sports films and foreign language films. Now, that’s not to say I don’t watch them at all, because I do, just not on the level of some of those other genres. I mean, Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire were two of my favorites from last year, but I’m still lacking in my film knowledge in both areas. So when I was offered the chance to watch a screener of this new film called In Full Bloom, I was worried a bit, as it falls into both of those categories.

In Full Bloom tells the story of two boxers, two warriors in the ring, one is the reigning boxing champion in Japan, while the other is a down-and-out fighter from American who’s just looking to get back on top. Set in post-WWII Japan, the film takes a hard look at these characters and what they’ve been through, from serving in a war and witnessing things that will always stick with you, to training in the frozen wilderness. These two men are fighting for more than just a win, they are fighting for honor, they are fighting for respect, and neither is willing to give an inch.

In their feature film debut, Adam VillaSenor and Reza Ghassemi, who both wrote AND directed this, do such an incredible job of telling this seemingly simple story in such a compelling manner. As I said before, I wasnt the most excited to watch a boxing film, as Im just not typically drawn to that genre, but wow, was I mistaken, because this is so much more than just a boxing movie, its so much more than just a foreign language film, its an incredible character piece that chooses to focus on the development of these two very different, yet oddly similar men, rather than just the sport in which theyre competing. I was blown away by what I watched.

One of the standout components of In Full Bloom is the stellar cinematography. This, too, was handled by VillaSenor and Ghassemi, which blows my mind. These two came from a background of commercials and music videos, and for them to come out of the gate with something like this is outstanding and makes me very interested in what they choose to do next. The beautiful shots of the snowy mountain wilderness contrasted perfectly with the dark, dank look of the locker room, while the serene atmosphere contrasted the anxiety-ridden war scenes. And the final fight sequence was incredible to watch, from the unique camera angles, to the use of slow-mo at certain points, and the visceral look of both competitors and how different they appear at first.

And speaking of the competitors, these two guys did solid jobs here. Tyler Wood and Yusuke Ogasawara dont interact all that much in the movie. We see them at the pre-match press conference, and then during the fight, but outside of that its all about them as individuals rather than competitors. The scenes with Clint and his wife and Masahiro and the mountain harlot both came across in a powerful way. Family is the most important thing for me and seeing these two men deal with their shortcomings in terms of their family was wonderful to see.

Now, there were a few issues in the film, though nothing too egregious. First off, the actor who played Shichiro Shinohara, Shu Sakimoto, was difficult to understand when speaking English at times. It wasnt a huge deal, just distracting. Also, on a side note, his brother, Satoshi Shinohara was played by Hidetoshi Imura, who some my recognize from his role as Hidetoshi Hasagawa on The Office, which is exactly how I recognized him and was thrilled to see him in this. But the other small issue I had was the ambiguity of some of the events, particularly the scene where Masahiro was blindfolded in the woods. I enjoy when films allow the audience to draw their own conclusions, but that scene almost made the film feel like it had a supernatural element, which took me out of it for a bit.

Overall, In Full Bloom was a beautiful character drama framed by a sport film, and those are the ones I can really get behind. As soon as you get the opportunity to check out this film, I highly recommend you do just that. And I hope to see more from VillaSenor and Ghassemi very soon. 

The Mercs Score: 9/10

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