One of the truly most unexpected delights of the year is AS LONG AS WITH BOTH SHALL LIVE. Based on the first book in a series of novels, it’s a film that had me hoping for a sequel twenty minutes in. I had no idea if the film was going to tank, but I didn’t care I wanted to know where this was going for the long haul.
Set in an alternate Japan where magically powered families control the country, Miyo, a young noble woman with no powers is betrothed to the young son of another family. She has been pushed aside by her step mother and younger sister and in her view anything, even death, is better than where she was. Her fiancé, Kiyoka, is rumored to be a monster. All the other women set for an arranged marriage fled in terror from him. As she melts his heart she gives her strength to live.
While a good chunk of the film concerns the the romance, the rest of the film is a political thriller. The families are playing power games with each other in the hope of gaining control, meanwhile a dark force is threatening the capitol. It would seem the only ones capable of stopping it is Kiyoka and Miyo.
I love this film. I love it on a technical level and I love it on an emotional level. I love that the film not only gives us great characters but also gives us a fully realized world and a series of problems that hold our attention and pull us along. The fact that the film gets the balance exactly right is what makes this film so great. Too many times adaptions or films that cross genres do fail to get the balance of tones or genres correctly. They either lean too much into the romance or into the politics and something is lost. In bad films we get to the end intellectually knowing how we got there but not emotionally. Here the balance is spot on perfect and as a result we are properly moved emotionally and truly feel the characters earned our love. Additionally what happens politically feels organic and not like the moves of the screenwriter.
This is wondrous stuff. It’s films like this that made me fall in love with the art form.
An absolute must see.