Adapted from the manga “Kyuso wa Chizu no Yume wo Miru” by Setona Mizushiro, “The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese” is a very sexualized interpretation of flagrant human tendencies.
The title might sound confusing, until you experience the base emotions and weave your path through the various roadblocks that the main character’s face in their impeccable journey. While Setona Mizushiro has created an inevitable universe with highly contrasting individuals, the live action adaptation seems to have its own distinct variations.
Frankly, I have never experienced this kind of disconcert and despite that, this film swept me through a whirlwind of emotions. I felt exasperated and yet oddly I could connect with the insecurities and fears that breed deep in our main character’s psych. Both of them are highly flawed individuals with their own baggage, and yet they keep gravitating towards each other. Is it Love, Lust or mere obsession? The truth is far from the surface and as the Director ostensibly peels off the various layers, we are left with two contrasting characters that were never meant to be together.
Okura Tadayoshi plays the role of Otomo Kyoichi. Kyoichi is a thirty years old salaryman. Unhappily married, he has a history of getting involved into adulterous relationships with women without any real emotional investment.
Narita Ryo portrays the lead role of Imagase Wataru. Imagase is a former University friend of Kyoichi, who now works as a Private Investigator. He is hired by Kyoichi’s wife to investigate the possibility of Kyoichi’s infidelity.
This story begins when Imagase approaches his Senior Kyoichi after several years. Imagase presently works as a Private Investigator, and he reveals that Kyoichi’s wife has hired him to dig up any possible evidence of Kyoichi’s infidelity. He then blackmails Kyoichi and in exchange for his silence, asks for random kissing sessions. Left with no other choice, the very straight Kyoichi acquiesces. As they slowly grow closer, Kyoichi’s wife reveals her cheating ways and out of guilt seeks a divorce. As Kyoichi shifts into a bachelor pad, Imagase forces his way in and becomes his roommate. It is also revealed that Imagase is gay and evidently has been in love with Kyoichi since their University days. As both of them settle into an odd domesticity, Imagase’s excessive obsession and insecurities as well as Kyoichi’s adulterous nature wreck havoc on their delicate relationship. Will their love survive the test of time or will they be torn apart?
Otomo Kyoichi’s Adulterous Ways
Okura Tadayoshi’s portrayal of main lead Otomo Kyoichi will leave you disgruntled and frustrated on a whole new level. Kyoichi is a very highly sensual character and Tadayoshi’s embodies the subtle nuances that highlight this character’s basic flaws and inadequacies. Kyoichi has an innate need to sample different flavors and as such he can’t control his urges. When presented with the evidence of his infidelity, Kyoichi tries to justify himself with false declarations of love. It is clear that he will never change his cheating ways and that’s why he falls prey to Imagase’s obsession to tame him. Throughout the film, Kyoichi displays a passive-aggressive nature and is entirely indecisive. So much so, that you began to sympathize with Imagase despite his compromised morals. He even grudgingly shares an apartment with Imagase after divorce and grows fond of him. But despite their increasing closeness, Kyoichi’s adulterous nature cannot be subdued. So, in the end when he understands and accepts his true feelings, Kyoichi is left with nothing but an empty apartment and false hopes.
Overtly Obsessive Imagase Wataru
Imagase is a very complicated character and yet his obsessive tendencies depict the basic human nature. He loves wholeheartedly and as such forgives easily. You will obviously question his credibility when he blackmails Kyoichi and takes advantage of the situation to further his agenda. Despite that, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Imagase is a Gay man, supposedly in love with a serial adulterer (Kyoichi), whom he has loved since their University Days. While some people will never acknowledge their repressed feelings, Imagase is a utilitarian. I personally feel connected with Narito’s portrayal, because it exposes human tendencies. We always crave for things that are beyond our grasp. As such, the only thing that Imagase truly desires is Kyoichi’s love and faithfulness. The constant monitoring, stalking might grate on your nerves, but Kyoichi isn’t exactly a stellar character. So Imagase’s underlying insecurities and fears aren’t unfounded. You empathize with his emotions while constantly judging his undying devotion to Kyoichi.
A Flawed Romance with Adulterous Overtones
The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese is a metaphorical representation of the complex relationship between our main leads Kyoichi and Imagase. As Kyoichi gets entangled into Imagase’s obsessive need to own his affections, he continously falls back on his adulterous nature. His sudden divorce affords him the required freedom, but Imagase bulldozes into his life, and they settle into an odd relationship where neither are committed nor nonaligned. They can be categorized as frequent sex buddies and yet Kyoichi can’t accept the fact that he might be developing feelings for Imagase. The sudden appearance of Kyoichi’s ex girlfriend Natsuo further complicates the situation, when Kyoichi chooses Natsuo over Imagase. The contant pull and push will leave you emotionally exhausted, because you will begin to question Imagase’s patience levels. Oddly enough despite dismissing him, Kyoichi can’t stand the thought of Imagase falling into the bed with another man.
Your patience will wear thin as you watch both the main character’s dance around each other. While Imagase is more vocal about his affections, Kyoichi’s emotions keeps oscillating as he tries hard to hold onto the last vestiges of his supposed sexuality. Kyoichi is unable to accept the fact that he might be bisexual and that draws a blank on their relationship. In the end, Kyoichi’s inability to “CHOOSE” Imagase, drives him away. There are several scenes in the film where you can see Kyoichi’s underlying repressed emotions. It could be the scenes where he unknowingly seeks Imagase’s attention, or when he gets drunk thinking that Imagase might be with another men. Kyoichi keeps deflecting from his base feelings and is disconcerted, but his journey is a reflection of human weaknesses. In the end, when he finally does chose Imagase, it is only after Imagase grows wary of Kyoichi’s wavering nature and abandons his pursuit.
The symbolism behind the ending credits will leave you dissatisfied, as Kyoichi now sits in the same high chair that Imagase frequently used, whenever he was lost in his thoughts. Now Kyoichi is the one seeking Imagase’s attention and although it seems that Imagase has given up on Kyoichi, there is a distinct possibility that destiny might bring them together. As such, “The Cornered Mouse” (Kyoichi) now dreams of his “Cheese” (Imagase).
Overall, this movie is steeped in heavily orchestrated drama and sexually explicit content that will leave gasping. There are no grand declarations of love and in the metaphorical sense, it is impossible. This film is a journey of self discovery as Kyoichi slowly transcends the borders of self deprecation and learns the true meaning of love and sacrifice. Even though he lost the love of his life, he has gained the patience to wait for Imagase’s return. The open ending though unsatisfactory is understandable.
Rating- 3 out of 5
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