The Japanese film Oh Lucy! is too dark to be a comedy and too satirical to be a tragedy, and contrasts Japanese and Californian mores. It is certainly different.
An upbeat opener: a metro platform in Tokyo is packed with sombrely dressed commuters with surgical masks, which not only stop particulate matter, but also ensure that you don’t run the risk of starting up a conversation with the solitaries beside you. “Goodbye,” a stranger whispers in Setsuko’s ear before throwing himself in front of a speeding train. The middle-aged lady does not appear to be enjoying her time on earth. She has a boring office job, and the chances that she will ever meet a man are depressingly small.
Through her niece, Setsuko finds herself in an English class taught by an American screwball who has eccentric teaching methods and constantly flouts strict Japanese etiquette. You will recognize Josh Hartnett, the American heartbreaker from Black Hawk Down and Sin City who has fallen into obscurity in the past few years. John puts a blonde wig on Setsuko and calls her Lucy. This brief new identity and a whiff of love make Setsuko think or hope that she may still have a chance of a new and happier life.
A little less monotony would go a long way. When her teacher runs off with her niece, Setsuko refuses to throw in the towel, and sets off to California to find him. The culture shock and language difference turn out to be bigger obstacles than she expected, and anti-loneliness medications don’t exist on either side of the ocean.
You can tell that director Atsuko Hirayanagi based her feature film debut on an award-winning short film. Unfortunately, the film’s peculiarity and interplay between jokey seriousness and serious jokes gradually fade from the film and are replaced by more melodrama. Oh Lucy! is not unforgettable, but it is original enough to forget all your office and routine work for an hour and a half. So it’s a start.