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#TIFF19 Review: 37 Seconds (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 12, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Yuma (Mei Kayama) is a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy in Tokyo, who dreams of being recognized as a manga artist. But the work that she does gets taken by Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara), a blogger who passes it off as her own and has gained a massive following. When Yuma starts drawing hentai, and gets noticed by a prominent publisher, the suggestion is made that she needs to actually have some sexual experience in order to make her drawings more realistic. So Yuma starts focusing on trying to lose her virginity, but her overprotective mother (Misuzu Kanno) and other accessibility barriers get in the way.

The feature directorial debut of Japanese artist Hikari, 37 Seconds is at its best in the first half when focusing on Yuma trying to own her sexuality. The film addresses the challenges that people with physical disabilities can be faced with when pursuing intimacy, doing so in ways that feel both honest and realistic. But the story takes some needlessly melodramatic excursions in its second half, including a trip to Thailand in the last act that strains credibility, making it go on for a good twenty minutes longer than it needs to. Still, 37 Seconds features a solid performance from first time actor Kayama, who was born with cerebral palsy in real life, and the film is commendable for exploring important themes about sexuality and the disability experience, which are all too rarely addressed on screen.

Minori Hagiwara and Mei Kayama in 37 Seconds

Public Screenings:

Wednesday, September 11th – 3:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Thursday, September 12th – 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Saturday, September 14th – 6:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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