Our 30 Minute Sessions (サヨナラまでの30分/30 Minutes Until Goodbye) doesn’t reinvent the wheel. And it doesn’t have to. The 2020 film treads familiar territory, but does it well. With its strong cast, excellent soundtrack and careful direction, the film is an affecting story of healing, purpose and friendship.
The film centers on Sota Kubota (Takumi Kitamura), fresh out of college and looking to enter the workforce as a salaryman. His reserved nature, however, hinders his ability to endear himself at the personality-driven cattle calls for jobs. One day he stumbles upon an old Walkman which introduces him to musician Aki Miyata (Mackenyu Arata).
The catch, Aki died one year ago on the eve of a major gig for his band. And Sota pressing play on the Walkman containing a cassette of Aki’s music enables Aki to “borrow” Sota’s body for 30 minutes at a time.
Sota and Aki couldn’t be any more opposite of each other. Sota is antisocial, preferring to keep to himself. Aki is positive and outgoing, energetic to a fault.
Aki asks to borrow Sota’s body in order to reconnect with his bandmates and friends, including his girlfriend of four years Kana (Sayu Kubota). Through the switches, Aki is able to feel the adrenaline of performing on stage with his friends again while he also helps Sota come out of his shell and become more open to others.
The unexpected situation brings Sota and Aki together. They develop an unlikely friendship as they unwittingly help each other grow and move forward via their supernatural circumstance.
The film deals with the idea of moving on and moving forward. There is a sense of healing as both Aki and his friends are still struggling to come to terms with his untimely death. But it also depicts the common and relatable struggle to find oneself. Feeling directionless and needing to find the confidence to step out and forward toward a goal or dream.
At just around two hours, the film manages to effectively pack just enough to allow the viewer to connect with the characters, especially and most importantly Aki and Sota. The premise certainly holds a lot of potential for a longer treatment. The foundation is there for a couple of episodes as a television series even. But the film is able to tell a full and satisfying story as it is.
The cast is very much a big part of its success. Most especially from Mackenyu and Takumi. Both talented young actors convey the emotions of the story in a way that is sincere and relatable. You have no problem understanding their feelings and perspective. And in a story that hinges on the emotional connection you forge with both Aki and Sota, their performances more than help drive the film home to its emotional climax.
It is also important to point out both Takumi and Mackenyu’s talents not just as actors but as singers and musicians as well. All helping to complete the total package.
The cinematography feels ethereal most of the time, adding to the dreamlike nature of the story. And the excellent soundtrack not only compliments, but enhances the story. Music is an important part of the narrative. And the music almost feels like a character on its own.
Overall, while Our 30 Minute Sessions doesn’t break any new ground, it successfully achieves the goals it sets out to accomplish. An emotionally affecting story powered by great performances and excellent music.