Part of the Tokyo International Film Festival’s series of independent Japanese films, “About the Pink Sky” is an entertaining, if a bit aimless, attempt at the classic coming-of-age story with a monochrome twist. Filmed in black and white—the only flash of color in the entire film is in the ending credits—the movie tells the story of Izumi, a precocious, quirky high schooler who finds a wallet with 300,000 yen (roughly $4,000) and the unexpected consequences that arise when she endeavors to return it.
“About the Pink Sky” is in many ways, a ‘first’ film for many involved. This is only director-writer Keiichi Kobayashi’s third film and is the debut film for a majority of the film’s cast. Everything from the script to the actor’s performances has a distinctly raw, somewhat unpolished feel to it. But in a good way. Kobayashi has an eye for little nuances and character quirks that really bring his characters to life. Newcomer Ai Ikeda also delivers a strong performance as the film’s main lead, stealing every scene she’s in with a sort of confidence and comedic flair not often seen amongst young Japanese actresses.
Story-wise, however, the film could have used a bit of fine-tuning. The premise is definitely intriguing—what would a Japanese high school girl conceivably do with 300,000 yen in a society where there’s a reportedly 90 percent chance a lost item will be returned to its owner? Another director would have probably turned “About the Pink Sky” into a crime noir film not unlike “No Country For Old Men.” However, this is not that kind of film and Kobayashi keeps things relatively innocent. The most enjoyable parts of the film are scenes where things are kept simple; for example, Izumi debating whether or not to return the wallet or keep the money, or when the wallet’s ownerinevitably comes back to question Izumi about the missing money. However, as the plot thickens and emotional stakes are raised, the film loses some of its footing. The film’s climax is somewhat typical and tonally, shifts from awkward silence to banter and back again at the drop of a hat. It’s not terrible, but it is jarring.
Along a similar vein, Kobayashi’s choice to use black-and-white film is also a bit confusing. In the age of color, it’s not that common to find directors creating black-and-white films without some kind of deliberate artistic reasoning. In recent memory, films such as “Sin City,” “American History X” and “Schindler’s List” all used black-and-white segments for artistic reasons to either better illustrate key plot points, or perhaps evoke a certain sense of nostalgia. “About the Pink Sky” is no different; it’s not difficult to see that Kobayashi is trying to portray something by choosing a monochrome palette—but exactly what remains somewhat of a mystery. For the majority of the film, the lack of color doesn’t detract from the film, but it doesn’t particularly add anything either. Where it does detract, is in a key scene where two characters discuss the titular ‘pink sky’. To the viewer, the ‘pink sky’ is a completely indistinguishable white and one can’t help but wonder if some selective color ala the red coat in “Schindler’s List” would’ve been a more effective choice.
“About the Pink Sky” is one of those films that while entertaining, is just a step or two away from being really good. For the skeptical, it might help to go into the film with lowered expectations and be pleasantly surprised. Overall, a tighter script and a streamlined plot would’ve helped the film go a long way. But then the film might’ve lost some of that raw charm, which in of itself, is reason enough to give this film a chance.