Topping the box office at the time of its release, Japanese film I Give My First Love to You was a romantic hit with Japanese moviegoers. Starring popular actress Mao Inoue of Hana Yori Dango fame and newcomer Masaki Okada, the film is based on a manga of the same name and follows the tale of two young lovers who know their time together is limited. Takuma (Masaki Okada) was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition when he was eight, and his doctor says he can live to be at most twenty years old. His doctor happens to be the father of his childhood sweetheart Mayu (Mao Inoue), who has been Takuma’s greatest source of joy and comfort during difficult times. Mayu and Takuma promise each other that if Takuma makes it past his twentieth birthday, they will get married. But as the two of them go through middle school together and enter high school, Takuma wonders if he should leave Mayu before he leaves for good so that she can start learning how to live without him.
I Give My First Love to You has every element of a typical Asian romantic melodrama. There is the chronic illness, the childhood sweethearts, and the cycles of breaking up and making up. There are also all the typical firsts – first love, first kiss, and first heartbreak. The movie follows a predictable story arc loaded with cliches aimed at jerking tears from the audience, and it seems to have succeeded in doing that as evidenced by the movie’s stellar box office performance. There were one or two scenes that tugged at my heartstrings, but I didn’t have an outpouring of tears that some audiences experienced. Overall, the film’s plot felt mediocre to me and didn’t greatly move me because it was too similar to other things I’ve seen. I suppose watching other melodramatic films has built within me an immune system where it now takes more to push me to tears.
The lead actors delivered great performances, and they were able to capture the innocence of first love through their natural, refreshing chemistry. Masaki Okada also gave quite a mature performance for a newcomer – there was no shade of green.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Title: I Give My First Love to You
Director: Takehiko Shinjo
Writers: Kenji Bando, Kotommi Aoki (manga)
Cast: Mao Inoue, Masaki Okada, Natsuki Harada, Yoshihiko Hosoda, Toru Nakamura
Run time: 2 hrs 2 min