I don’t know why I”m a big fan of Horikita Maki, perhaps because most of the Japanese dramas I’ve seen has featured her in the lead or perhaps because she has that girl next door vibe that simply wants the audience to root for her. In Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, a movie based on a novel by Gabrielle Zevin of the same title, Maki once again uses her charm to get audiences to sympathize with the plight of her character — a girl who loses her memory of the last four years of her life after she falls from a flight of stairs in an accident.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a coming of age film about college student Naomi Sukuse (Maki), a popular Japanese girl dating one of the most sought after guys in the international school she is attending – Ace Zuckerman (Anton Yelchin). Naomi not only excels in her academics but also shines as a tennis star and member of the yearbook committee, which she co-edits with her best friend Mirai Hasegawa (Yuya Tegoshi), a guy who is secretly in love with her. When Naomi breaks up with Zuckerman, Mirai tries to find the confidence to propose to her but before he does, she falls from a flight of stairs trying to save a camera. When she regains consciousness, she forgets everything about the last four years of her life, including Mirai. While struggling to put the pieces of her life together, she meets Miwa Yuji (Ken’ichi Matsuyama, who played my beloved L in the Death Note Live Action series), a troubled teen whom she builds a relationship with.
Overall, the film had a general sense contemplation, from the point of view of Naomi, as she tries to regain footing in a world that has suddenly become unfamiliar to her. As she finds her way, she connects with another lost soul Yuji, whose family issues keep him from building a normal and stable relationship with Naomi.
The story progresses very slowly and at times employs a surrealistic approach, using pictures as representations of Naomi’s broken memories. Since the setting was in Japan, it was no wonder that elements of family were present, even at the backdrop of the story. I liked the character of Yuji. He was very unpredictable and I kept thinking that something bad was going to happen to him. In contrast, Mirai was very endearing and dependable — the formulaic best friend who patiently waits for the heroine to see him as anything other than a buddy. I liked how he still looked out for Naomi even though she didn’t remember him and the fact that he didn’t want to burden her with his feelings when she was confused about her identity. I felt however, that Naomi had better chemistry with Yuji because of his dynamic personality, which was a foil to Naomi’s quietness.
The ending made a lot of sense but some would much rather Naomi went the other direction. Other than that, audiences will surely appreciate the appearance of Hollywood star Emma Roberts in a small role as Alice Leeds — well, Anton Yelchin’s role was a bit bigger but still not the considered a lead. It’s also great to hear Japanese actors speak in English (Maki’s delivery was surprisingly good). It was a good movie, although there were times I felt a bit disconnected to the characters, perhaps because English is not their native tongue and still felt foreign on them resulting in the loss of some emotion they would have delivered fully in plain Japanese. All in all, it was a complete movie, that served up an equal sense of wonder and discovery, confusion and misery — the same ones regular teens without amnesia experience everyday in their lives. I’m sure that a lot can relate to this film.