The complicated world of dating and relationships is put under the microscope in this emotional drama. Koji (Kenta Niikura) and his girlfriend Tomoko (Naoko Wakai) have invited a group of friends to their apartment: Koji’s friend Yuta (Takumi Matsuzawa) and Yuta’s room-mate Takashi (Daisuke Sawamura); Koji’s brother Naoki (Yuki Ueda) and his girlfriend Satomi (Aya Kunitake) are the next to arrive, followed by Tomoko’s friends Kaori (Chihiro Shibata) and Yuka (Yumi Goto). The reason for their gathering is to introduce Yuka to Koji’s friend Osamu (Kenta Tsumuraya). Far from being a kind gesture, it underlines Koji’s cruel streak as he wants to set his friend up with someone he sees as unattractive as a joke. This casual get together gives us an insight into the various interpersonal relationships, with joking, sexual tension, gossiping and arguments breaking out. Following the party the film follows each of these individuals as their lives are variously tangled together in sexual and romantic relationships, showing the tribulations of love, lust and life.
From the opening moments the film does an incredible job of bringing you into the lives of these young adults, with believable dialogue and each actor fully embracing their role. Every scene is set in one of the character’s apartments with usually no more than three people involved. This gives everything a very personal and immediate feel. The rooms are cocoon-like spaces, crammed full of clothes, posters of pin-ups, takeaway wrappers, and other indications of each character’s tastes and personality. The set decoration and costumes bring as much to our understanding of the character dynamics as the performances, with some fun story hints if you are paying attention. Hitoshi One’s direction utilises cramped framing, blocking, close-ups and a low camera position to bring us down to the level of the characters. The hand-held camera work furthers this sense of a voyeuristic fly-on-the-wall feel. The film is based on a stage production, which the actors watched before filming, and it makes a comfortable transition to film. Largely dialogue driven, with a script by Daisuke Miura, the actors workshopped their scenes and it shows in the naturalistic style and chemistry between them. The film is structured as a series of conversations that manage to convey a full sense of who they are while driving the various plots of their twisted love lives forward. They are a motley assortment who display a wide gamut of positive and negative traits associated with their age group: jealousy, lust, selfishness and arrogance alongside loyalty, forgiveness, and friendship.
“Be My Baby” is a great example of a film that is driven entirely by the characters and their decisions. The themes and behaviours of the protagonists are relatable although it may be hard to admit in the case of the more reprehensible behaviours they display. They are often unlikeable, holding a mirror up to the worst aspects of human behaviour, such as bullying, arrogance, cheating and disrespecting their partners. The film examines the difficulties of human relationships, looking at the various power dynamics between men and women and how people can be their own worst enemy. By isolating different couples from any outside world we get a unique look at how they act in each particular role, either friend, family or lover, giving the audience a deep understanding of them as a sexual or romantic being. By setting everything in these intimate spaces, we are given a look into their private lives, and see them at their most vulnerable and most exposed. Partners are often the people who we show our best and worst to and that is brought to the fore in this film. Very much a stage play brought to screen, with a sharp, incisive script and realistic, relatable, performances.