Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω
In the movie world, sports films often hold a special place for fans, taking the side of the underdogs and raising them to great heights. Feel the Wind, a Japanese production based on the book of the same name, starts at that bottom rung and takes the audience right along to the top.
The story follows a ragtag band of students at Kansei University as they work towards their goal of competing in a nationally televised marathon relay. The race is the Hakone Ekiden and takes place just after the new year with 19 schools and one collected team competing for glory in front of their country.
The Kansei team doesn’t start out as a team. They’re housemates first, 10 young men sharing cheap rent near school. Leader Haiji Kiyose collects them with the hopes of building a team for the Hakone Ekiden but doesn’t tell the group of his intentions until he’s recruited the final housemate and former high school track star, Kakeru Kurahara.
Together the group works through individual issues, against rivals and to overcome the past. Of the 10 members, everyone has something to overcome in some way and this is the strength of using the marathon relay. Unlike other team sports, it’s an individual battle, but at the same time each teammate is working for the greater good. This solo battle/group responsibility creates an interesting balance for the plot to revolve around.
The directing is solid, though there may be too many shots of people running. Some of the voice-overs can be confusing but the technique does allow for character expansion, so the issue breaks even.
The acting is Japanese-esque, with a few moments overwrought, edging on cheesy. The good natured-ness of those scenes and the overall earnestness of the characters allows some give in that department. For films of the genre, the plot can be predictable, but it doesn’t make the film less enjoyable. The will-they won’t-they of the final competition does build up proper tension, especially since the race takes up the final act. It is a two-day race though.
Plots aside from the central struggles take a back seat and can feel stapled on, with a romance that is never really explored and a coach with a history. These are likely due to the plot being taken from a book and making allusions to areas more fully formed on the page.
The film was shown Thursday night as part of the Kamloops Film Society’s series of films in collaboration with the Consulate General of Japan and The Japan Foundation as part of a double feature on Sept. 27.