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37 Seconds Review: It Is An Unforgettable Gift Of Life

37   Seconds(Japanese, Netflix)

Starring Mae Kayama, Misuzu Kanno, Shunsuke Daito, Makiko Watanabe, Yuka Itaya, MinoriHagiwara

Witten & Directed  by Hikari

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Cinema  all over the world is  turning to  repair  rather than despair. Films  about healing and kindness  are  much in vogue. And  thank God  for that!  This  Japanese gem  about a cerebral  palsy-stricken wheel-chaired strong-willed  animation artiste’s journey from dependency to  freedom, is so filled with humanism and compassion  that  it could easily have become  a flouncy syrupy celebration of schmaltz.

 37 Seconds(the title refers  to the  time that  the heroine stopped breathing when she was born) is something far more vital than a mere motivational emotion picture. It  is so stripped of preaching that it effortlessly ends  up giving us  lessons in hope at a time when the world is filled with utter despair.

When we  first meet Yuma(Mei  Kayama)  she  is wheeling her way home to her mother’s fortress-like protectiveness.  It’s  the only way a girl destined to disability  can survive….or is it? This delicately drawn sketch of life   seen from  ground-level is  so  filled with surprises and  with such warmth and humour that the theme of  self-discovery acquires dilating  tantalizing  dimensions never seen in films  about physically-mentally challenged heroes.

It is refreshing to see  the writer-director draw conscious attention to Yuma’s body.  By doing so, the  film reminds us that the physically  disabled have normal  carnal cravings. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black the sexually famished  disabled girl(played by Ranu Mukerjee)  asks her aging tutor(Amitabh Bachchan) to kiss her as she has never experienced any sexual gratification. 

In 37 Seconds  Yuma buys the services of  kind warm-hearted gigolo who tries to fulfil her need with gratifying empathy. The sequence is  at once acutely poignant and pointedly funny. There is a sexual unabashedness about the film I’ve never seen before. Yuma is seen naked more than once . Just because she can’t walk doesn’t mean her libido can’t think .Yuma, the  wonder woman  on a wheelchair wants  the sex  so she  could be more experienced as a writer.Her  propulsive  catalyst  is a ebullient  unrepentant surprisingly sophisticated sex worker Mai(Makiko Watanabe) who exudes an  easy grace and  an boundless genorosity.

I am  surprised at how  much kindness Yuma  encounters in her journey into  self-awakening. In real  life it is not so  easy for  a disabled to find kindness let alone compassion.Writer-directorHikari  purports to throw open the  doors and windows of our hearts with an overwhelming  idealism that  never gets oppressive , even when Yuma meets her Prince Charming Toshiya(Shunsuke Daito) who wheels her around  , almost to the end  of the world. Yes, they sleep together. But  they have no sex.

The  film’s  build-up towards Yuma’s  a full flowering is  achieved  through scenes that are constructed with  care and affection. In one stormy confrontation sequence with her  harried but ever-smiling mother(played  by the  brilliant Musuzu Kanno) Yuma accuses the  mother  of using her  daughter’s disability to  imprison her  emotionally.  It is  a  devastating moment  of confrontational  ugliness in a  film wholeheartedly devoted  to  selling hope in a supermarket  of  despondency.

37 Seconds  has  a multiplicity  of brilliant  sequences which you will find discussing with friends  for a  very long time. It questions every normally-abled person’s  responsibility towards  those who are  handicapped, But  it doesn’t  enjoy making us feel guilty.

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