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“Feeling horny for you”

Second part of the “L/R15” project between Hideo Jojo and RIkiya Imaizumi, which aimed at completing two sex comedies with an R15 classification, following “Love Nonetheless”, “Straying” features the latter as director and the former as scriptwriter, in a style of film that reminds intensely of Hong Sang-soo’s cinema. 

Ako Machido, who works for an erotic manga magazine for ladies, is about to take a divorce from her husband, Hiro, who works for a tabloid. The operation goes relatively smoothly, but an argument ensues over who takes the cat, Kanta, with both parties wishing to keep him, and the cat eventually sharing his opinion by peeing on the divorce papers. The reason for the divorce is that Hiro is having an extramarital relationship with a colleague, Mamiko, who seems to be quite in love with him, not to mention better at their line of work, as the comments of their boss frequently highlight. It is soon revealed, however, that Ako also retains an affair with a colleague, editor Matsuyama, without Hiro’s knowledge, who does suspect, though, the fact. Things become even more complicated when Kanta disappears. 

Rikiya Imaizumi directs a film that focuses on the fact that Ako and Hiro do not want to actually split and be with their new lovers, with the cat essentially proving an excuse just for that. In that fashion, and in a level that moves towards the subconscious, Ako experiences cramps in her leg every time she is having sex with Matsuyama, while Hiro, although stating the opposite clearly, is actually not that invested in his relationship with Mamiko. Even more surprisingly, and in a somewhat comedic turn, Mamiko actually realizes the fact and proceeds on a decision that is quite extreme, which is what eventually leads to the most tense scene in the movie, where everyone is in the same room, fighting about their relationships. 

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Imaizumi’s approach is quite dialogue-heavy and also includes dead-pan humor on occasion, which is where the HHS influences are mostly presented, along with the presentation of the lives of everyday people who find themselves in unusual situations and the appearance of a director that could easily be described as a pompous buffoon. The presence of the cat is quite appealing, particularly in the way it is used to highlight the dynamics of the protagonists and what is happening in their minds, while the sex scenes add much entertainment, even in their R15 approach, something the movie seems to need intently, since not much is actually happening throughout. 

Probably the most interesting aspect here is the main comment about people not knowing what they want and being indecisive regarding their lives, with Ako and Hiro highlighting the fact on a number of levels. Apart from that, however, none of the characters are particularly likable, nor the story seems especially interesting, essentially revolving over some key moments, but not having enough “juice” to justify its 109 minutes. 

The acting follows realistic paths, with very few exaggerations, with Nairu Yamamoto as Ako and Miyuu Teshima as Mamiko delivering the most appealing performances. The cinematography moves in the same ways, while the editing results in a mid to slow tempo, that does not harm nor benefits the movie in any particular way. 

“Straying” has some merits, mostly deriving from presentation of the complexities modern couples face, but in the end, is one of those movie one watches and forgets immediately after. 

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