Best friends Hana (Anne Suzuki) and Alice (Yu Aoi) begin to drift apart after starting high-school. Hana begins following an older boy they saw at the train station, later discovering he is a senior in her school Rakugo club. When the boy, Masashi (Tomohiro Kaku), bangs his head against a shutter door, Hana seizes the opportunity, telling him he’s lost his memory and that he recently confessed his love for her. Meanwhile, Alice is scouted by a talent agency and begins auditioning for parts in commercials. Hana’s dishonesty grows as she later tells Masashi that he used to date Alice too leading to a complicated love triangle between the three.
“Hana and Alice” is a beautiful depiction of teenage friendship, with incredible performances from the two leads. The chemistry of Anne Suzuki and Yu Aoi is enjoyable from beginning to end, with their believable quirks and clear affection for each other making them instantly likeable. What is a fairly straightforward love triangle is enlivened with the plot of Masashi being told he has lost his memory. The film follows a traditional high-school narrative, building to a school festival at the end, with romantic dates, friends falling out and making up, and a touching look at Alice’s somewhat chaotic home life with her mother. The script captures so many relatable moments, with the girls shivering in the cold waiting for a train, or gently ribbing one another over their appearance, and luxuriates in simply spending time with these two characters. Writer and director Shunji Iwai also created the charming score captures the youthful atmosphere and compliments the stunning cinematography by Noboru Shinoda which brings a magic to the everyday environments of the girl’s lives: school, parks, cafes and the seaside.
In Hana and Alice, Iwai creates two likeable protagonists with believable backstories. The characterization and performances are engaging and make you keen to spend time with them and find out what will happen along the way. Although a disservice to Tomohiro Kaku, who is great as Masahiro, his character serves simply to offer a mirror through which the two girls are able to reflect on their own feelings and relationship. The film’s central theme remains friendship and how this can be maintained when people’s lives and interests begin to diverge. Hana and Alice are shown as literally and figuratively in tune with one another at the beginning, even mirroring one another’s movements. The audience is fully invested in hoping that this friendship will not be destroyed. We learn a little of Alice’s backstory, and briefly about Hana, but the film manages to suggest so much more, propelling the story through character rather than plot. A fantastic high-school film that breaths fresh life into the traditional teenage girl drama.