Cannes 2024 Review: Hiroshi Okuyama’s “My Sunshine” Brings Out the Light From Within

Before anyone else perfects their technique in “My Sunshine,” it’s clear that Hiroshi Okayama knows how to do a pirouette to go by how nimbly he introduces the trio at the center of his second feature, all passing the time at an ice rink in a rural Japanese village. It is where Mr. Arakawa (Sosuke Ikematsu) has come to get away from the pressures he faced as an internationally decorated figure skating champion, though now he’s known far more for manning the Zamboni and administering the children’s sports at the local recreation center, offering skating lessons on the side. He has a prize pupil in Sakura (Kiara Takanashi), though one can’t tell whether it’s his instruction or her natural grace that makes it all look so effortless when she takes the ice, yet the result catches the eye of Takuya (Keitatsu Koshiyama), a younger boy for whom nothing has come easily, introduced staring off into space during a baseball game in which he makes a poor outfielder and when finally coaxed to speak is revealed to have a painful stutter.

Thanks to Okayama’s elegant groundwork leading up to the moment that Takuya lays eyes on Sakura for the first time, showing no struggle at all as she spins and lands her jumps, an audience is just as likely to surrender to the film’s considerable charms, with the boy quickly putting down his baseball glove and putting on some skates to try an emulate her, hardly hoping to mimic her footwork, but to mirror her finesse. What he sees in her, Mr. Arakawa sees in him, reigniting his own passion for the sport when he sees what effect it could have on Takuya’s confidence and if this sounds like the premise of an early ‘90s Disney movie, “My Sunshine” certainly has that kind of comfort food appeal. (Okayama isn’t above including a feel-good musical training montage when things start to pick up.) Yet it hardly feels manufactured when Okayama so delicately lays out the circumstances that have positioned them to fall so easily into one another’s waiting arms, needing the spark that the other holds whether it’s Takuya’s enthusiasm, Mr. Arakawa’s expertise or Sakura’s poise to lead them to be their best selves as Mr. Arakawa suggests Takuya and Sakura train as an ice dancing duo.

Confined to a square Academy aspect ratio, one never entirely forgets that there are certain limits to what the three can achieve in the small town where the film grain comes to reflect a certain static quality and while Okayama, acting as his own cinematographer, offers staggeringly beautiful shots of the landscape as the seasons change, he is equally attuned to the ugliness of attitudes that persist in such remote communities when Takuya is all but written off, even amongst his own family, for not keeping up with his classmates and Mr. Arakawa isn’t entirely trusted as an outsider in more ways than one. Although Sakura seems a little underwritten in relation to her two male counterparts, who both have a lot more on the line, the film’s powerful yet understated conclusion wouldn’t be the same if she wasn’t nearly as flawless as she is on the ice, with the ability to skate an uninterrupted routine taking on an entirely different meaning. When capturing how elusive true grace can be, “My Sunshine” offers it generously.

“My Sunshine” will screen again at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section on May 20th at 8:30 am at the Debussy Theatre, 4:45 pm at Licorne and 5:45 pm at Cineum Imax, May 21st at 7 pm at Cineum Screen X and May 22nd at 4:30 pm at Cineum Screen X.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.