Original Title: ホノカアボーイ
Release date: March 14, 2009
Director: Atsushi Sanada
Novel by: Leo Yoshida
Screenplay by: Takuma Takasaki
Cast: Masaki Okada, Chieko Baisho, Keiko Matsuzaka, Jun Hasegawa, Yu Aoi
Honokaa Boy tells the story of a boy – Okay, a young man – who ends up living in the small Hawaiian city of Honokaa after he mysteriously falls in love with the place during a failed trip with his girlfriend. There, he meets a bunch of very likable yet quirky people, who end up having an impact on his life.
One of the people he meets is an old woman who lives alone – a widow for the past 50 years — and is a great cook. One day, he leaves a bag of flour at her place, and she suddenly invites him back for a home-cooked meal, which he couldn’t possibly resist since he is living off instant noodles. After that incident, a friendship starts.
The pacing of the film is slow, as it is in many Japanese films, and it has a simple premise. Most of the weight falls onto the characters themselves. Leo (Masaki Okada) is a perfectly charismatic guy, while Bee-san (Chieko Baisho) plays a perfect counterpart – Keiko Matsuzaka was also great. But what elevates the film is the platonic relationship between Leo and Bee-san, who are ages apart in years.
Bee-san even tries to make herself pretty with a trip to the beauty shop and a brand new bright-colored dress. However, as any relationship must suffer, theirs is threatened by Mariah (Jun Hasegawa), a young woman working at a local store. Leo seems interested in her, and why shouldn’t he? She’s attractive, he’s attractive. They’re both young.
The only thing complaint I have is Hasegawa’s performance seemed flat and out of touch with the whole feeling of the film. Her line delivery was even worse in her perfect English than it was in Japanese.