TIFF14 REVIEW: Oh Lucy! [2014]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 21 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Japan)
Studio: New York University Tisch School of the Arts – Asia
Director(s): Atsuko Hirayanagi
Writer(s): Atsuko Hirayanagi

“Don’t get involved if she calls”

You know you’re in a rut when your sister calls to tell you not to talk to your niece and you do everything you can to do just that in the hopes of some semblance of excitement—or at the very least change. So chain-smoking Setsuko (Kaori Momoi) ditches work at the much younger Yu’s (Rian Nagashima) request to grab dinner and hear her proposition despite the warning. Needing money, Yu is looking for someone to take her place in an English course so she may recuperate the non-refundable six grand she shelled out. Knowing her aunt always talked about learning the language better, she seems the best choice to buy the class. Cautious about spending the money, it only takes one session with unorthodox instructor John (Billy Scott) to say yes.

Fifty-five, cynical, and alone, there’s little that wouldn’t provide more stimulation than sitting at her computer all day inputting data, but John infuses an infectious excitement of which she can’t get enough. Once the quiet office wallflower, Setsuko—renamed Lucy inside the English-Only classroom—begins to find her voice. It’s one with a very sharp edge that’s devoid of patience, allowing her to no longer get trampled over in silence. But just as she starts to emerge from her shell, the catalyst of this transformation begins changing course. First he brings another student named Tom (Keiichi Tsuda) and then he cancels class. Now without a release, Setsuko’s newfound candor begins to trickle out in public with her peers.

Perfectly titled with the whimsical Oh Lucy!, Atsuko Hirayanagi‘s short feels like a sitcom where the final frame freezes on its star shrugging with a smile after someone lets out the phrase. Donning a blonde wig and nametag in class, the whole thing is somewhat absurd from the beginning. Yu’s proposal eventually proves more surreptitious than originally anticipated, the reasoning behind the class’ steady decline less than coincidental, and Setsuko’s transformation wholesale rather than merely behind closed doors. Just as the things that make her more fun also start rubbing people the wrong way, however, she must decide whether it’s worth going back to pushover status or if she’s come too far. It may result from a despicable ploy, but Setsuko is finally afforded the opportunity to live if only she allows herself the space.

courtesy of TIFF

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