Review: ‘Oh Lucy!’ Starring Shinobu Terajima And Josh Hartnett

Did you know that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay produced Atsuko
Hirayanagi’s directorial debut? Neither did I but I think we’ll both be
glad we learned about this gem.

Oh Lucy!
stars Shinobu Terajima as Setsuko, a middle-aged, chain-smoking
Japanese woman who works a boring cubicle job full of colleagues that
annoy her in a variety of ways. The film opens with Setsuko witnessing a
man jumping in front of a train on her morning commute, where she is
pestered by a retiring coworker who seems oblivious to the fact that
everyone in the office – Setsuko included – will be relieved when she is
gone. Perhaps she sees these two paths laid out before her own life
every night when she retreats to her hoarder’s den of an apartment. That
could explain why she agrees when her niece Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) asks
her to pay for and attend her remaining English language classes, run
out of a sketchy love hotel and taught by the ever-charming Josh
Hartnett as John.
classes with John are weird: he puts you in a wig and pulls an English
name out of a hat to give you your new identity while you’re in your
class. Before I had time to process the problematic nature of telling
someone to abandon their identity and force them to adopt a blond-haired
one instead, John was wrapping Setsuko, sorry, Lucy, in a hug and
popping a ping-pong ball in her mouth. (This seems like it could be a
legitimate pedagogical method to teach phonemes but still.) But becoming
Lucy definitely lays out a new path in front of Setsuko. Lucy is brave
enough to tell that annoying coworker that everyone hates her at her
retirement party. Lucy eagerly hugs John back during English class. When
he runs away to America with Mika, Lucy abruptly requests vacation and
goes to LA to find them, with her sister Ayako (Kaho Minami) in tow.
for Lucy, she has to live with the unaddressed baggage and poor
decisions that Setsuko makes. To name a few that she is forced to
confront in California: her sister stealing and marrying her boyfriend,
her crush on John, a Japanese character tattoo, smoking weed in a
parking lot. Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration
everyone else’s drama, like the troublesome mother-daughter relationship
between Ayako and Mika, and John’s surprisingly complicated past.
this sounds a bit like the plot of a coming-of-age romantic comedy type
of movie, you would be mistaken. While the movie is billed as a comedy,
and I did occasionally laugh out loud watching it, even comedic scenes
are tinged with a dark sadness that reveals itself in full by the end of
the movie. The director lingers on moments that make you laugh out loud
and then steep in discomfort. The cast, especially Shinobu Terajima,
really bring these characters, their terrible decisions, and the
consequences of those decisions to life.

Rating: 4 out of 5