By Jeff Walsh
"Boys Love" is a Japanese movie that doesn't need much translation. A lot of foreign movies require you to make assumptions about what life is like there in addition to the story that's actually being told, but Boys Love is a very modern film set in Japan, but with a universal, relatable story.
Mamiya is a young shy editor at a magazine whose first assignment as a writer is to interview teen model, Noel. Over the course of the interview, Noel makes a sexual play for Mamiya. Again, what could have turned into an angsty quest to determine his sexuality is avoided, and we only know Mamiya is drawn to Noel. Sexuality is a huge element to the film, but a largely unspoken one.
Noel (Takumi Saitoh) handles his role well, since it seems like it would be easy to find fault in the role of someone in the spotlight that exudes charisma. It would be easy not to buy into the conceit that this person would not draw such attention in real life (then again, I still think that about Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, I don't get what the fuss is about). Whereas Mamiya (Yoshikazu Kotani) seems like it would be the easier role, playing the shy, non-famous journalist.
Interestingly, you learn in the DVD extras that both lead actors and the director are all straight, and that the director was adamant there be nudity (mainly asses) as well as how he felt it was important to show that homosexuality is something natural. In fact, he actually goes on to mention that unlike heterosexuality, homosexuality is pure because it has no other function but love. There are no babies or anything else involved, so it is purely about the pursuit of love. Interesting take.
It was a very uncluttered movie with a very clear sense of story. One character explores his feelings for another boy, whereas the other makes you care why he seemingly has everything but has a dark, destructive side. Both give their roles enough depth to make them both compelling.
The movie has a great visual style, and really just takes you on a nice, enjoyable ride as these characters work through their different issues, random hookups, and jealous gay schoolmates.
I'm not certain the actual ages of the characters in the movie, but I should point out that despite the reporter/high school student language, and the title of the movie, the characters look and interact as peers in the movie, so there's no chance it will be taking home best picture at the NAMBLYS or anything (though they'd be right to nominate Saitoh in the best foreign ass category).
So yeah, just a fun, interesting movie that's definitely worth a look.