Kagami no Naka no Egaotachi

This heartfelt ditty, directed by Ichiro Kita, made its world premiere at the Okinawa International Film Festival in March. The down-to-earth love story charmed crowds in multiple screenings at the fest. Action star Shunya Shiraishi stars as Ryo, a driven young man who goes to beauty school in Hokkaido and practices so hard that he not only finishes first in his class, but also wins a national prize for stylist students.

Soon he’s cutting the hair of the stars in trendy Harajuku and is highly sought after by salons around Tokyo. But when he rejects the advances of a super-model client, he finds himself out of a job and has no choice but to return to Hokkaido. There we find he treats his widowed mother with disdain and other beauticians with condescension. When the troubled lad meets Mari (Natsuna), he’s intrigued; but it takes him a while—and many human service trips to old folks’ homes—to treat her with kindness.

Though the film is a tad melodramatic, and we can see where it’s going from a mile off, Ryo’s slow development is believable and his emerging relationships with those around him well-depicted. Recommended for those who like love stories. English title: Smiles in the Mirror. (89 min)