The art of letting go is a tough one, usually reserved for a revelation in all seriousness, not to be lightly seen. We hold on to tiny details of our lives, and of course we also hold on to the larger parts. We cling to past romances, and also places where there never was love.
Akiko Ohku creates a tender, whimsical rom-com out of her socially anxious protagonist’s attempt to move on. Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) is in her mid twenties, and has been fixated on Ichimiya, who she believes is “The One” for her since middle school. She struggles with anxiety, and this all-consuming fixation on this idealized romantic partner causes her love life to suffer.
So often there is that idea of “The One”. We set our hearts onto someone we think is right, following stories on a screen that don’t quite line up with our realities. Largely, Tremble All You Want is about dismantling these fixations, proving that idolization isn’t always perfect, and that more than one person can fit into our lives in the way we want. When the possibility of romance with a colleague arises, Yoshika struggles with letting go, so much so that she pushes other romantic options away, thinking that the path her life would take in her teenage self’s dreams is the only destiny laid out for her.
Sometimes fragility is okay, sometimes it’s good to have a reminder to ‘Tremble All You Want‘, as knowing yourself so firmly at an instant is tough. The dreamy soft focus view and real world with all of its clutter, as aesthetically pleasing as it is, serves a purpose in showing the full world and its edge of balance. The comedy here is that anxious kind, teetering on the edge, bubbly and running out of control. There’s a massive amount of heart beneath the Tumblr aesthetics and occasional musical tendencies, a lovable protagonist that saves the film from falling into the trap of being just another socially awkward rom-com. Where the film slips into a musical, though quite beautiful, it does grow disjointed, losing the realism of the slice of life trappings throughout. The music sequences are dreamy just like the many shots of the setting gently lit by fairy flights, but they are too surreal to fully mesh.
The implicit critique of the culture in Japan that pushes women into romance far at far too young an age gives the film a small element of commentary on the nature of relationships shaped by societal pressure, but this is not at the forefront. It is largely about Yoshika’s anxieties, her fear of connection, and her struggles to get past her own emotional boundaries. She is inexperienced in defending herself from this world of flirtation, and rebuffs advances from those she’s interested in too easily out of fear of missing out on her tweenage dream. It only goes to show how young women are indoctrinated with this idea of monogamy through the idea of soulmates, the pressure to get it all right the first time.
The ending is divisive, but neither viewpoint necessarily reflects poorly on the film. It can be taken as progress towards moving on, or can be seen as a surrender to giving up and lowering expectations, and both are nuanced interpretations of our protagonists journey to self acceptance. It is a question of whether the viewer believes we should dwell on our dreams, or knows happiness can come with allowing them to change as we grow. It’s almost like this is a happy ending for her current self, and a send-off to the young teen Yoshika, who would be so devastated to see how much things change.