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Review: Tremble All You Want

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Just got back in from my second Japan Cuts screening: Tremble All You Want, a fascinating film that begins as a lighthearted, whimsical romantic comedy… before gradually evolving into something significantly more dramatic.

Navigating the complexities of her first leading role with aplomb, Mayu Matsuoka plays a twenty-something career woman that has been quietly harboring a schoolgirl crush for over ten years. Her relationship with a meek, love-struck, and mildly creepy coworker, however, forces her to confront some painful truths about herself: she’s wasted half of her life obsessing over a classmate she barely knew, and her various “endearing quirks” are actually rather severe character flaws (her penchant for assigning people cute and/or silly nicknames, for example, betrays her inability to meaningfully connect with others). This culminates in a twist reminiscent of Scorsese’s The King of Comedy; in fact—blasphemous as it is to admit—the accompanying tonal shift (which is somehow abrupt and jarring without feeling narratively inorganic) may make it even more effective in this case.

The plot does drag a bit in the later acts, but overall, Tremble All You Want is a beautiful, funny, and sharply-scripted cinematic oddity. Like Oh Lucy! and Kore-eda’s After the Storm, it features a very different kind of protagonist, emphasizing the recognizable ugliness and frailty of humanity over traditional “likability.” And for that reason, above all others, I cherish it.

[Originally written July 28, 2018.]

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