An aging Japanese office worker embraces her American alter ego and embarks on a comedic odyssey of desire, passion, and betrayal through Southern California, in the feature debut from Atsuko Hirayanagi.
Desire is an elusive thing. And in Oh Lucy!, the debut feature film by Atsuko Hirayanagi — introduced in Toronto in 2014 via a short of the same name — a Tokyo office worker has her desires awakened in the quirkiest way.
Lonely chain-smoker Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a single woman whose youth and vitality have been lost to the bleak routine of life, points underscored by Setsuko's garbage-filled home and the near-daily spectacle of suicides witnessed en route to work. Pushed by her niece Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) to take English classes, Setsuko finds herself faced with John (Josh Hartnett), a handsome foreign teacher.
John gives Setsuko a blond wig, a new identity, and an American alter ego: Lucy. When he suddenly disappears — taking away the warmth and light that had illuminated Setsuko's recent days — Setsuko/Lucy sets out to find John in Southern California. There, she finally frees herself by coming to terms with her desires while discovering that neither she nor John is quite what she believed.
Terajima, who won the Silver Bear at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival for her performance in the Japanese drama Caterpillar, is irresistible as Setsuko, supported in her charming performance by a dazzling Hartnett and an impeccable — as always — Kôji Yakusho, as a fellow English student.
Oh Lucy! combines bittersweet comedy with an unsettling darker narrative, great acting, and remarkable visual aesthetics. It's a work not to be missed.