Close-Knit 彼らが本気で編むときは (2017) – Movie Review

The Japanese movie Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは) was on TV Japan the other day, and it looked interesting (and is subtitled) so I watched it, even without knowing much about it. I just knew that a Johnny’s member was portraying a transgender person in it. Today happens to be Transgender Day of Remembrance, so I thought I would write a bit about it.

Well, I will start by saying the movie was excellent. The acting, plot, dialog, and overall feeling was sensitive and heartfelt. The story is told through the eyes of Tomo (柿原りんか), an 11-year old girl, who is forced to move in with her uncle, Makio (桐谷健太), and his girlfriend, Rinko (生田斗真), who is transgender. Over the month that the three live together, a wonderful relationship develops amongst them and many issues are discussed. There aren’t any plot twists, but the story doesn’t need any. It’s straightforward and compelling without needing to resort to gimmicks.

It was refreshing to see issues that many people often wonder about being asked and discussed so openly and without taboo. Maybe it’s because the 11-year old girl is at an innocent age where she hasn’t been influenced so much by grown-ups and can look at people with a more open mind. Her inner questioning of the beliefs of others is palpable, and she ponders on what makes something “wrong” and what makes something “right”. And because of this, I felt she was one of the wisest people in the story. Maybe it’s important to keep a young, non-judgemental mindset throughout life.

************* Possible spoilers below *************

Another important part of the story was about Tomo’s classmate, Kai, and the struggles he has when he realizes he is gay. The discrimination and teasing from his classmates were sickening. One of the most powerful scenes was when he talked to Tomo about what he was feeling and how he didn’t understand it all. It was so moving! There was a similar scene in which a young Rinko also breaks down as she deals with being a girl in a boy’s body. But the difference between the two was that Rinko had a completely supportive mother (田中美佐子), while Kai’s mother (小池栄子) is threatened by “strange people” and Kai fears coming out to her. It’s kind of simplistic situationally, but I imagine that these are common scenarios.

Lastly, the story brings up the subject of child abandonment, since Tomo’s mother doesn’t come home for a month, which is why Tomo moves in with her uncle Makio and Rinko. The mother (美村里江) is set up to be the villain, but in one of the climactic scenes, we find out a little about her own insecurities and flaws, and the strong bond that exists between mother and daughter, however strained the relationship might be. When she broke down, I just about lost it! 😭 That was an incredible scene. I have to point out that the acting was superb in the film, of course from the starring roles, but also the supporting cast like Tomo’s mother.

You know, I admit not really thinking much about transgender issues in the past, but I’ve always been supportive of equal rights for all people. I guess I haven’t given it much thought because I think people are people… I don’t care about gay, straight, transgender, etc. People can be good or not-so-good, whatever their lifestyle. However, watching Close-Knit just reminds me that people deal with issues that might not involve me personally, nor be readily apparent, but that I should try to be empathetic towards everyone.

If you have the chance to watch Close-Knit, I recommend doing so. I for one gained some insight into the struggles of LGBT people, and transgender in particular, and I think I have become a better person for it. I think you will too.