Cafe Isobe: Only Open For A Limited Time!

Year: 2008
Directed by Keisuke Yoshida
Written by Keisuke Yoshida
Produced by Yuko Takebe, Kazumasa Watanabe
Cast: Hiroyuki Miyasako, Riisa Naka, Kumiko Aso, Mickey Curtis, Dankan, Mari Hamada, Haruna Kondô, Yosuke Saito, and Soko Wada

Yujiro Isobe, a bumbling single father with a precocious teenage daughter: Sakiko Isobe decides to open up a cafe named Cafe Isobe. In running that cafe, the people Yujiro Isobe and Sakiko Isobe come in contact with end up changing them and the people they care about forever.

In spite of this movie’s title, it isn’t going to teach you how to run a cafe or even how to make a tasty coffee. I’m sure you’re going to need more than a movie to teach you how to run a cafe, and that might even apply to making coffee as well.

More than just making a good cappuccino, Cafe Isobe is about human relationships and exploring those relationships to see if they live up to our expectations. Many movies or even cinema, in general, should be guilty of creating false expectations of how relationships work in real life, too idealistic to fit reality. I have little doubt, this way of portraying relationships have inflicted much harm on the world like when impressionable people discover the typical idealistic way that movies portray relationships aren’t the way they work in real life.

Cafe Isobe is one film from the lot that has a ”grounded” approach, and a more ”realistic” look into relationships. This aspect of Cafe Isobe is what makes it so compelling because its  story is so genuinely sentimental. The relationships in the film move throughout the whole story in ways, you wouldn’t expect them to. If I can say one thing, it is people aren’t what you expect them to be. Not to suggest that Cafe Isobe is an entirely a melodramatic affair, humor is never in short supply in Cafe Isobe. The humor may be the typical ”embarrassing dad” variety, but it never outstayed its welcome and even actually serves the plot at points.

Beyond the script itself, all of the cast portrays their respective characters very well, but Riisa Naka should be commended for her role as Sakiko Isobe. She is a talented actress, my proof being that I saw several other movies with her as the lead. Thanks to Riisa Naka in Sakiko’s shoes, Sakiko is a young woman of great maturity yet great emotional vulnerability. Cinema has a bad habit of making teenage girls too angsty for their own good. Many, to be frank, aren’t likable characters but Sakiko luckily is very likable.

This film does have its shortcomings; some plot points could have been expanded better. One example being the incident between Sakkio and her potential love interest. But what’s there says a lot; I was just so intrigued that I wanted more. A great film, people interested in Japanese films should take a visit to the Cafe Isobe.

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