I missed Daisuke Miura’s Boys on the Run at its last showing so I could attend one of my best friend’s birthday party, fully planning to do both but ultimately unable to. On the last day of the festival, while sifting through the Fantasia website for the final showings, I come across an additional projection of Boys on the Run for the afternoon. I head out to the Concordia campus where I arrive at the showing in the nick of time. “This is the last showing of the festival,” yells out the festival representative in front. “I hope you like it.”
As I look around at the near empty Hall Theater, I feel a sense of regret this year’s festival’s coming to an end. But the limited spectators in the theatre also imbue the showing with a feeling of harmony, a communion of sorts. We’re rid of the poseurs, the walk-ins, the curious one-timers on this last screening; it’s as if we’re left with the cinephiles, the unconditional lovers of the festival, kindred spirits eager to discover treasure together. I see it in their eyes as I hope they see it in mine.
As the movie starts, Tanishi, a twenty-something Japanese man is running. Tanishi is something of a loser; working as a small novelty toy company representative, he spends his evenings in “love booths” engaging in phone sex with total strangers and masturbating to hard-core porn. When he becomes the object of the affection of Chiharu, a woman at work, he doesn’t know how to relate to her and reciprocate, socially and romantically inept. Fluently mixing dark comedy with painfully truthful drama, Boys on the Run is awkward and uneasy, like a Todd Solondz film, creating an atmosphere of fringe characters with no clear good guys or predictable narrative. It reminded me of last year’s Love Exposure (Shion Sono, 2008) in the way it switched between film genres, from coming of age story at one point to an underdog Rocky-like fight movie at another.
And yet, what makes Boys on the Run so powerful are the snippets of real life, the touching truths and inescapable mistakes, the weight of loneliness, the abyss separating dreams from reality and, ultimately, the acceptance of life. Boys on the Run is thoroughly disturbing yet moving and refreshing, beautiful like a Baudelaire poem, reaching to the heart of modern love.
I leave the Hall Theater shell-shocked by the movie, a fitting ending to my Fantasia experience this year. I look back one last time at the building, noticing the festival volunteers picking up the advertising, the last festival goers discussing the intricacies of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (Yoshihiro Nishimura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu, 2009), and I smile, looking ahead to next year.