Sweet Red Bean Paste / An (2015)

With the original title An directly referencing the bean paste stuffing of a Japanese pancake, you kinda go into this movie thinking it’s going to be a pretty typical cooking movie, that at the end has some kind of a simplistic, but heart warming message about life in store for its viewer. If you’ve ever watched a cookery themed movie, you more or less automatically expect a bit of a slice of life story set around cookery, with a hint or two of endearing sentimentality attached to it, something that the Japanese tend to be very good at. While this kinda has that, suffice to say, the movie gives you a big slap in the face when around halfway through it suddenly transforms into an almost melodramatic story about leprosy. And discrimination. And prejudice. And resulting depression, that in part is also tied to a story about the burden of one’s troubled youth and attached, heavy guilt. If you thought you were in for a light hearted feel good story, guess again.

I would say that after you get through the initial shock, An still makes for an OK watch. By no means is it ever terrible or impossible to sit through.  It just takes a noticeable, major dip in quality after it switches gears to focus on Tokue’s leprosy and starts to become progressively somber and saddening. It becomes such a downer and derives all the enjoyment out of the story that had become before the shift. The first half is pretty nice. When it shines, it is really pleasant and hear warming to watch. The pancakes look really delicious making to wish you could have some right that second, there are some cute moments with the characters interacting with each other and forming friendship. 

An is allaround decent, if trope ridden, movie about cooking with endearing vibe. Perhaps the jarring tonal shift was part of the point, but unfortunately it does not save the movie being an uneven mess. The second half dealing with the discrimination and prejudice of Tokue due to her illness and the subsequent depression of Sentaro just turns the movie into a dull, almost directionless mopey mess that feels meandering forward without really knowing what to do next. It does attempt to provide a happy ending of sorts, but it doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. In the end I don’t find myself hating the movie, I just feel slightly disappointed.

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