Tatsuo Fukada (Miyuki Oshima) lives out his life, content with his lot, working at a construction company and drinking with his friend and co-worker. He also spends time with his two oddball flatmates, one of whom recently completed a pilgrimage of Buddhist shrines to atone for his sin of stealing panties, the other who is living with a giant snake in his apartment. Despite his friends’ insistence that he find a girlfriend, and attempts to matchmake for him, Tatsuo remains steadfastly single, happy with his hobby of decorating and flying kites. In a parallel story we follow Chiho Sugiura (Asami Mizukawa), a young woman who quits her job in order to follow her dreams of becoming a photographer. When she unexpectedly comes face to face with Tatsuo she is reminded that they were at school together. Tatsuo was mercilessly bullied for his appearance and Chiho begs his forgiveness for her part in the teasing. She is enamoured by his features and wishes to use him as the subject in her art, finally finding her muse in Tatsuo.
Written and directed by Yosuke Fujita, “Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats” is a peculiar film in many regards. The pacing is very slow for the first hour until the film finally gets to the connection between Fukada and Sugiura. There are also tonal discrepancies in many sequences. For example, the sexual harassment of Chiho by a respected photographer, and hints towards his violence towards women seems at odds with the comedy stylings of other moments. The other element that is hard to reconcile with the general feel-good drama vibe is the character of Akira Nonoshita (Asato Iida), who swings wildly from a geeky caricature into something far more terrifying. The film is not without its moments though. The writing throws up some genuinely funny dialogue between the flatmates and it is clear to see the intention of the wackier elements. Miyuki Oshima uses her talents as a physical comedian to great effect, and her expressive features find themselves equally suited to more serious drama. Asami Mizukawa does a good job, but her part, as with many other characters seems underwritten.
“Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats” is ostensibly a comedy, but finds itself lacking enough jokes to keep things interesting. The talented cast do their best with the material. The film is at its strongest when it reaches its revelatory moment about Fukada and Chiho, but it does so little to really set up the characters even this moments lacks the impact it should have. The film’s central theme is that of forgiveness and moving on with life, but the message is confused by its bizarre tone. Themes of sexual perversion and violence seem completely out of place and the relevance to the story of Fukada, the film’s protagonist, is tenuous. Despite the fantastic central performance of Oshima, this film sadly falls short as both a drama and a comedy.