This film was likened to Wonderful World End (MIFF 2015), a surprisingly poignant Japanese exploration of identity in contemporary Japan, and I can see it has some similarities. Our Huff and Puff Journey follows four school girls, obsessed with pop band Creep, who set off on their push bikes to get to their concert in Tokyo. Full of obsessive enthusiasm, they don’t seem daunted by the 1000km journey from Fukuoka and only vaguely aware of the repercussions once their parents find out and they have to come home.
The journey, of course, becomes the testing ground for their stamina, friendships, self-worth and the extent of their love for the band. They sleep out, hitchhike, accept dubious favours and jobs and constantly photograph, film, message and tweet what they are doing. A lot of the filming is made up of their hand held video which is often distracting and disorienting but we do also get to pull back and see the more objective eye of a ‘proper’ camera.
There is a beautiful scene toward the end, as they are on a bus, where there is no spoken dialogue, just a messaged conversation between the four as they sit in separate seats, then a written note passed from one to the other. Communicating via their phones seems to be a way they can safely connect, it is when they must confront each other face-to-face that the harder truths emerge.
I found it a little hard to stay engaged with this film although there is some pay off, particularly in the alley way scene in Kobe where there is some depth to the pervading superficiality. The resolution is not quite what I expected but I liked it.
Bechdel test – pass