Sugihara is a troubled youth who was born in Japan to Korean parents. After completing junior high school at a brutally strict Korean institution, Sugihara switches to a regular Japanese high school to continue his education. His father Hideyoshi was once a professional boxer and he has trained Sugihara to fight ever since he was a child. His skill at fisticuffs serves him in good stead at the new school when the Japanese boys gang up on him. Sugihara meets Sakurai, a Japanese girl, at a party given by his one Japanese friend, the son of a yakuza gangster, and he quickly falls in love. Sugihara is lacking in social skills but his affection for Sakurai appears to be reciprocated. He has not told Sakurai that he isn't Japanese, however, and this omission continues to worry him. He fears that it might well bring their budding relationship to an abrupt end. And just when things can't get any worse, they do. Sugihara gets a call from an old friend from his days at the Korean school. What Jong-il has to tell him will have grave consequences for his relationship with Sakurai...
"This is my love story".
- Overall 10
- Story 10
- Acting/Cast 10
- Music 8
- Rewatch Value 9
The movie opens up with this declaration, uttered in background narration by the main character while he's scorned and targeted by a players-filled basketball court. And it isn't only the rival team watching him with contempt: his own teammates are shouting the loudest.
"This is my love story", repeats Sugihara while he escapes from the police or is beaten by his father.
The contrast between the narration and the scene shown on screen gives us the key to the reading of the whole film, which is about finding ones place between love and hate, belonging and distancing, caring and detachment.
It's the story of a young man who has to show the world he doesn't
give a dime while inside he's yearning for a sense of belonging.
GO is a wonderfully dramatic movie, one that deals with a cruel reality of discrimination. It's the journey of a guy who struggles to find his place on the planet. But don't be fooled by the surface: the director highlights the Japanese prejudices and the Korean stubborn obtuseness in equal measure. To each their own share.
And in the middle of this, there's Sugihara, who looks like a Japanese, talks like a Japanese, was born in Japan and is not recognized as one. His part is superbly acted: Yosuke Kubozuka is so convincing one can't help falling for him despite his murderous glances and his rebellious spirit.
So how is this a love story?
It is such on multiple levels: there's love for the friends, love for a father shown with fists, love for a country - or 2 - and love for a girl.
The music fits the pace beautifully, never overpowering the scenes.
Overall an emotion-filled movie, superb in acting, direction, plot and photography.
To be avoided if you're looking for a light watch. A must if you like thought-provoking films.
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If you're interested in the life of Zainichi Koreans in Japan, Kazoku no Kuni is a more recent movie to check out. While GO deals with the issue more from a teenager's point of view, Kazoku no kuni is viewed from a zainichi family's perspective. Take note however that the latter is an independent film so beyond the common theme of zainichi Koreans, these two films are different in terms of cinematography, mood and perspective.