24th Udine Far East Film Festival: “One Day You Will Reach the Sea” Review

Mana Kotani’s (Yukino Kishii) world is turned upside down the moment she learned that her best friend, and first love, Sumire Utsuki (Minami Hamabe) has died. The bright and bubbly woman she met on her first day of college has gone, there one moment and gone the next. It takes everything she has to keep it together as life barrels past her and, when Sumire’s ex Atsushi Tono (Yosuke Sugino) asks for her help to sort out Sumire’s personal belongings, it sets into motion a journey of reflection and grief.

Image © Courtesy of Udine Far East Festival 

Based on Maru Ayase’s novel of the same name, One Day, You Will Reach the Sea follows its lead characters over several periods, from the first moment they met to the journey Mana makes – both physically and spiritually – to come to terms with her loss. Sumire was one of many washed away by the tsunami caused by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, a cataclysmic event that led to over 18,500 people being classed as dead or missing. The disaster remains a fresh wound in the minds of Japanese citizens, and it is through this film that director Ryutaro Nakagawa explores the long-lasting impact it has had on those left behind.

Told from both Mana and Sumire’s point-of-view, the women’s story of friendship and love unfolds in a subtle way that is typical of films of its ilk in Japanese cinema. The alternating storylines mirror each other well and add to the emotive nature of the piece, revealing how the women feel when words fail them. While it’s not said outright, the inherent queerness of the piece can certainly be felt through the looks shared by Mana and Sumire during the years they knew each other. 

Image © Courtesy of Udine Far East Festival 

These are two women who love each other in a quiet, gentle way, one that can be easily attributed as just friendship but feels like so much more. It explains why Mana is so devastated by losing Sumire, even when Tono tells her he doesn’t plan to keep her spirit alive in his heart and claims she should do the same. For Mana, there’s no such thing as moving on from Sumire. Kishii and Hamabe convey these emotions well, one look speaks a thousand words, and the actors have incredible chemistry with one another.

One Day, You Will Reach the Sea is a moving story of love lost, grief, and a longing so strong it could cross oceans. Nakagawa’s film is one of those dramas that burrows deep, grabbing hold of your heart and squeezing tight before you even realise it has done so. When the film reaches its climax, it feels like the emotions pour out of you in Mana and Sumire’s place. While told mostly as a live-action, the film also features two stunning animation sequences, one of which opens the film. Both are incredibly moving, but their significance to the story is best experienced without spoilers but it feels necessary to at least give credit where credit is due.

Image © Courtesy of Udine Far East Festival 

One Day, You Will Reach the Sea touches on a subject that is universal, making it that much more powerful a watch. Thanks to Nakagahara’s moving storytelling and the work of the film’s formidable cast who bring it to life, the drama unexpectedly feels like one for the ages. Just like Mana, viewers won’t forget Sumire and her tale anytime soon.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written by Roxy Simone

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