A university student dealing with personal tragedy finds solace in the ancient art of Sumi-e (ink painting). While working as a volunteer at an exhibition of Sumi-e paintings, Sosuke (Ryusei Yokohama) has a fateful meeting with master artist Kozan Shinoda (Tomokazu Miura). Shinoda invites Sosuke to be his apprentice and the young man travels with him to his home to learn the art of painting with ink. While there he meets Shinoda’s grand-daughter, Chiaki (Kaya Kiyohara), a talented artist in her own right who is going through a creative slump.

Focused on the traditional Japanese art of Sumi-e, “The Lines that Define Me” is a beautiful coming-of-age drama dealing with loss and finding your way in life. Based on the novel by Hiromasa Togami, the film follows Sosuke’s journey, revealing in the latter half the terrible tragedy that has led to him being reserved and lacking motivation to his Law degree. Ryusei Yokohama’s performance as Sosuke shows us a young man burdened with regret, who slowly learns to move forward with his life rather than living in the past. Likewise, Kaya Kiyohara’s Chiaki is consumed by self-doubt and anxiety after having her art criticised and is struggling to find her own artistic expression rather than living in the shadow of her famous grandfather. While dealing with tragic themes, the film also has more light-hearted moments, both with Kozan, who occasionally falls asleep while teaching Sosuke; and Sosuke’s university classmates, who provide a degree of comic relief. Takahiro Ikeda’s emotive score of gentle piano complements the drama, underscoring the pitch-perfect performances.

“The Lines that Define Me” is a simple story, expertly told. While there is little to the narrative and a small cast of characters, it captures its themes with the elegance of a sumi-e painting without turning to melodrama. Every element of the story is perfectly weighted to show the growth of Sosuke, Chiaki and Kozan through their personal journeys. For those unfamiliar with Sumi-e paintings, there are also many incredible examples of the art-form and explanation of the craft, such as the common subjects and techniques, that make it an informative as well as an entertaining watch. Well worth a look for fans of emotional dramas with an artistic bent.

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