There is a scene in Michio Mitsuno’s newest film where a character lifts up her skirt to reveal she is not wearing any underwear to a group of her friends, which proves two things. One is that the title of the movie, Adult’s Situation (original title Otona no Jijo; Sumaho o Nozoitara), is more than apt, and two, it shows that filmmaking is about more than just the story. It’s also how you shoot it, and in the case of this 2021 comedy drama, most of the humor of that impromptu striptease scene comes from the fact that it’s not shot like a comedy scene. It more resembles something from a murder mystery.
From the tense atmosphere that has been built up exceptionally well during the lead-up to the big “reveal,” to the dramatic acting of everyone involved, the skirt-hiking sequence has the energy of some big twist where a character confesses to bludgeoning someone to death in the library with an old candlestick. And that gap between genre results in some great humor. That’s one of the main ways how Adult’s Situation sets itself apart from all other remakes of the 2016 Italian movie Perfect Strangers (orig. Perfetti sconosciuti.)
Both Adult’s Situation and Perfect Strangers (plus the original’s 17 other remakes, which make it the most remade movie in history according to Guinness World Records) all have the same premise. A group of friends get together one night and, either as a dare, an experiment, or some other excuse, decide to share all of their incoming phone calls and text messages with each other. With time, terrible secrets come to the surface, threatening to ruin friendships and tear whole families apart. The original film leaned just a liiitle more heavily into the “drama” part of its “comedy drama” description, but the Japanese remake prefers to keep things lighter… while also shooting them the completely opposite way.
There probably isn’t any other film where a cell phone sounds so ominous. Every incoming call or new text message is like the duuun dunn theme from Jaws, signaling some approaching tragedy, and it’s all treated so seriously that you can’t help but laugh at it. But while the “silly scenes shot in intense ways” technique is a big part of the movie, it’s not where all of its comedy comes from. There are also the actors’ performances. With an ensemble of seven cast members, there is no single “main character” in Adult’s Situation but there’s one person who keeps this comedy of errors on track and pushes most of the plot forward. Veteran actor Hiromasa Taguchi plays married father-of-three Reiji and brings his A-game to the table.
The plot truly kicks off when Reiji asks another character to switch cell phones to hide from his wife that he had been flirting with another woman. Everything about his performance there is perfect. Over-the-top silly faces have always been one of the pillars of Japanese comedy but here they are thankfully reined in a bit and infused with a little subtlety. Taguchi still mugs like a cartoon character, but he keeps his gum-face antics short and varied so they never become stale. Those watching Taguchi for the first time in Adult’s Situation have picked a pretty great movie to be introduced to the actor.
While the film really is great on the whole, it does have an incredibly weak ending. In the original and most of the remakes, the story ends with all of the terrible secrets being, well, forgotten, and everyone moving on with their lives as if nothing had happened. It’s suggested that the plot was a ‘What If’ scenario — things that could have happened but didn’t really. That’s kind of a cheat but it’s better than what the Japanese version came up with. In Adult’s Situation, everything in the movie happened for real but it’s OK because… it brought everyone closer together? Because life is all about overcoming hardships? Because it’s possible to love another person even if they have made a stupid mistake?
Those aren’t bad messages but (and this might be a slight spoiler) while flirting with a coworker over texts might be something that a spouse could eventually forgive, getting a random girl pregnant while your wife considers undergoing fertility treatment, might be slightly harder to get over. So, take the ending with a grain of salt.
- Japanese title: おとなの事情 スマホをのぞいたら
- Based on: Perfetti sconosciuti (2016)
- Director: Michio Mitsuno
- Cast: Noriyuki Higashiyama (東山紀之), Honami Suzuki (鈴木保奈美), Takako Tokiwa (常盤貴子), Toru Masuoka (益岡徹), Hiromasa Taguchi (田口浩正), Haruka Kinami (木南晴夏), Yasushi Fuchikami (淵上泰史)
- Official Website: www.otonanojijo.jp
Adult’s Situation is currently being screened in theaters across Japan.
For more film recommendations check out:
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- “Silent Tokyo” – A Dated Anti-War Movie with a Relevant Message
- “I Never Shot Anyone” Attempts to Reinvent Japanese Film Noir
- “Dreaming Murakami” Film: The Surreal Experience of Translating Haruki Murakami’s Novels
- 5 Less-Known LGBT Movies To Watch on Netflix Japan This Year