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Review: Linda Linda Linda (Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2005)

linda linda linda

Linda Linda Linda is a film about making friends, making music, and enjoying yourself; something I certainly did while watching. It’s a comfortable, joyous experience with all the catchy hooks and bubblegum fun of the best pop-punk there is.

The story of Linda Linda Linda is pretty simple: some high school girls have started a band and are practicing to play at their school’s upcoming cultural festival, which happens in three days time. However, guitarist Moe injures her hand at a basketball game and can no longer play, so leaves the band along with singer Rinko. The remaining members Kei (Yuu Kashii), Nozomi (Shiori Sekine), and Kyoko (Aki Maeda) decide to keep going and just play some covers instead. Kei moves from keyboards to guitar, and the three decide to learn some songs by 80s Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, and to recruit the first girl who walks by as their singer. That just so happens to be Son (Bae Doona), an exchange student from South Korea who has trouble with her Japanese and didn’t even understand what she was agreeing to at first. However, the new quartet get to practicing and learn their roles, bonding in the process, aiming to get good enough at playing three Blue Hearts tunes to be able to get through the festival and have fun.

In one moment early on in this film, Kei tries to put a cassette tape into the tray upside down, fails, turns it right way up, slots it in, and presses play. I don’t know how many times I made this mistake myself growing up… I love little details like this, that don’t really add anything to the story or the characters as such, but just make the film’s world a more believable and naturally real place. A place more comfortable to spend time in. I also felt a nostalgic pang watching Kei look through a box full of minidiscs, thinking about my own minidisc player that was one of my prized possessions at 14 or 15 years old.

It’s not just personal nostalgia for a time my teenage self knew well though (even if that doesn’t hurt!), the film is full of moments and details big and small which deepen the bonds of the central characters and help flesh out their high school world. From what they name their band (Paranmaum, Korean for Blue Hearts), to talking about boys, Nozomi cooking dinner, sitting on the roof under the nighttime sky, and of course pulling an all-nighter playing music together until you can barely keep your eyes open and just fall asleep holding your instruments. Watching these characters play together and interact was an utter delight, I had a smile glued to my face the whole time.

Linda Linda Linda is also very nicely constructed, in film-making terms. There are a great number of attractive looking shots of the town and school, and the characters are often very nicely blocked, meaning the film is not just enjoyable because of the interactions of its central quartet, but is interesting to look at too. There’s a sequence near the film’s beginning, a long horizontal tracking shot following a character through the high school’s corridors as she interacts with a variety of students in numerous classrooms, which is particularly memorable. You find yourself coming to know these spaces, and become comfortable in them.

And that’s what Linda Linda Linda is, absurdly comfy. I do love this sort of thing, with characters just lifting each other up, living their lives and having a good time. And the finale! Just an absolute joy. I loved it, and that chorus will be stuck in my head forever. If you watch Linda Linda Linda, it’ll be stuck in yours too!

9/10

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