Popular high school student Hazuka (Minori Hagiwara) is the leader of a ‘Mean Girls’-style clique and worried that she may be pregnant by her ex-boyfriend. Frequent victim of the clique, Aoi (Sayu Kubota), is an honour student who feels loneliness due to neglect by her busy parents – to take her mind off it, she begins shoplifting.
The two girls are classmates, not friends. Outside of school, they collide with an elderly woman, Etsuko (Masako Motai, ‘Mohican Comes Home’, ‘Always: Sunset on Third Street’) with Alzheimer's disease. The old woman wants to give a love letter to her first love but is prevented by her own faulty memory - Hazuka and Aoi resolve to try and help her. As the film progresses, the two girls clash, bond and begin to deal with their own personal issues, all while unearthing Etsuko’s buried past.
A touching seishun eiga (youth film) with elements of a road movie, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ is the second feature film directed by Takeo Kikuchi (‘Dear Deer’). The film unfolds at an unhurried pace and features finely nuanced performances by young actresses Minori Hagiwara and Sayu Kubota as well as engaging, likeable central characters.
In telling this story, Kikuchi subverts the standard good girl and bad girl dichotomy, and manages to avoid a corny “change of heart” ending. Instead, he examines the truths about adolescent pecking orders and the barriers erected between insiders and outsiders. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that ‘Hello, Goodbye’ doesn’t simply probe the hierarchies that dictate high-school life, but also the repercussions that echo beyond the classroom.
While the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, if you are seeking a simple story that is elegantly told, imminently watchable, and may require a box of tissues close at hand to catch some excess eye moisture, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ is worth a squiz.