To Love: ”They are all good people. Why do they have to suffer?”’

Year: 1997
Directed by Kei Kumai
Produced by
Written by Shusaku Endo and Kei Kumai
Cast: Miki Sakai, Atsuro Watabe, Jô Shishido, Chieko Matsubara, Miki Sanjo, Tsunehiko Kamijô, Ken Nishida, Kyôko Kishida, Keiju Kobayashi, Moeko Ezawa, and Masumi Okada

A romance sparked between a loner and a meek young woman hits a stumbling block when the young woman is forced to take treatment in a sanitarium because of a deadly disease.

To Love is a melodrama of a country that is no stranger to melodrama. The source for its inspiration is a novel of the name, ”The Woman I Abandoned”. Perhaps, this film being an adaptation of a novel is what gives its story more profundity. Two twenty-somethings falling in love is banal as it comes but the central love story is more of a set up for a later serious drama. The love story is a bit rushed yet acceptable as the romantic connection occurs more naturalistically and avoids overwrought romantic cliches. Mitsu and Yoshioka are natural foils to each other’s personality so their spontaneous connection is rather appropriate. Yoshioka wooing Mitsu can be too aggressive which is slightly concerning.

The romance as previously mentioned it is a catalyst to Mitsu’s personal conflict that arises in the sanitarium. The sanitarium functions as a safe haven for patients suffering from leprosy. This segment explores the effects of societal dehumanization of people suffering from leprosy. Two tragedies of two side characters are told to emphasize that societal dehumanization. After witnessing the plight of these downtrodden people, Mitsu is forced into a new realization that would have her make a life changing decision. It becomes an act of empathetic understanding that elevates Mitsu as a model of altruism.

To Love is an unassuming melodrama with a socially conscious heart of gold.

PS: The film is filled with supporting roles and cameos by older Japanese actors from the 60s and 70s.

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