Hana and Alice (2004)

“Don’t you think real people are scarier than zombies and ghosts?”

★★★★

Directed by: Shunji Iwai
Written by: Shunji Iwai
Starring: Anne Suzuki, Yû Aoi, Tomohiro Kaku

hana and alice

If your best friend has a crush on a boy, and she takes advantage of a situation in which he runs into a door to convince him that he has amnesia and forgotten she is his girlfriend, you help her. At least that’s what Hana (Suzuki) and Alice (Yu) see as the most natural turn of events. Writer-director Shunji Iwai, who explored the extremism of teen angst in All About Lily Chou-Chou, proves his understanding of adolescence once again in the more conventional, tried and true love triangle story that makes Hana and Alice accessible and simultaneously affecting.  

Hana (Suzuki) and Alice (Yu) are the perfect partners in crime. While they are giggling examples of youthful innocence in their school uniforms, their internal workings are a little more devious, sadder, and darker than what you see on the surface. Director Iwai unfolds these tangled inner workings of teen girls, beginning with Hana’s fixation on Masahi (Kaku) – a soft-spoken boy in the storytelling club at school who catches the same train as Hana and Alice. When Hana takes advantage of Masahi’s head accident to become his girlfriend – fabricating incidents of love that she convinces must have been lost in his amnesia state – Alice is sucked into a series of Hana’s lies that she happily plays to, until she too falls for Masahi.

While Hana and Alice ostensibly appears to be a love story, it is a film about self-discovery and maturing emotionally. Shunji Iwai tells the story of two girls who fall in love with a terribly boring and uncharismatic boy because of certain limitations and obstacles within their own personal lives. The two girls feel these internal sufferings on a very fundamental level, and yet, aren’t quite sure of what they are, where they stem from, and how they can overcome them. Shunji Iwai explores this adolescent confusion with charm and humor. He shows us the sadness of his characters with absurd situations, unpredictable moments, and scenes loaded with the same sense of unease and uncertainty that his characters are burdened with. Beautifully crafted and purely enjoyable to watch, Hana and Alice looks at the adolescent experience with a creative eye and a deeply relatable story despite its bizarre and quirky qualities. 

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