REVIEW: ‘And Then’ (2021) is a Beautifully Unsettled Musing on Love

Rating: 4 out of 5.

And Then makes expert use of an extremely limited time frame.”

And Then is a story of art, chance encounters and whirlwind romance. Set amidst the unsleeping city of Tokyo, we follow restless artist Mana (Erika Ishii) and country girl Haru (Rina Hoshino) as they drift in and out of each other’s orbits in a bittersweet love affair.

Director Jenn Ravenna Tran’s vision is acutely precise. She expertly shifts the film from one moment to the next, packing what could have been an entire feature film into a short seventeen minutes. Tran and Troy Edige as joint Directors of Photography fill the film with a nostalgic warmth, making it hard not to get lost in the film’s reminiscent pull. Short sequences that are swiftly cut together to create feelings of frustration, wanderlust and longing seem all-encompassing, and you easily get lost in the film’s mellow drift. Tran also makes expert use of montages, allowing weeks to cross the screen in seconds in a way that does not feel rushed, but as if you are remembering only the key moments of a fond past.

Despite having very limited dialogue to work with, Ishii and Hoshino play off one another wonderfully; their chemistry is evident from their first meeting. Both actresses embrace the subtleties necessary for such a tender story and using slight expressions to their advantage. Though only a brief encounter – a simple “konnichiwa” is exchanged as they pass each other by for the first time – the fleeting looks the actresses plant in this scene only make for their next meetings to seem all the more exciting. Their first conversation is a particular highlight as the lines of awkward want are balanced with ease and allow their relationship to develop in a way that doesn’t feel forced, but feels necessarily to move the story forward swiftly into a more intimate direction.

Though the film’s fast pace does wonders for the development of the plot, it does not allow much room for character development. We know very little about these two women – other than their shared love for art – and though this could be seen as a reflection on the rapid nature of their relationship, it feels like a wasted opportunity for a deeper connection with them as a couple and as individuals. As a result, when the two women finally come together, we feel distanced from them as the minute details we are gifted aren’t enough for us to be completely invested in their fleeting affair.

Despite this, And Then is a beautifully unsettled musing on love that makes expert use of an extremely limited time frame. Tran’s certainty as a director steers this film in a clear direction that creates a strong sense of nostalgic longing for a chance encounter that develops into something more. However, it does pose the question as to how Mara and Haru’s love story would fair if developed into something a little longer.

Dir: Jenn Ravenna Tran

Wri: Jenn Ravenna Tran, Patrick Allan Laffoon

Prod: Jenn Ravenna Tran, Hamish Campbell, Patrick Allan Laffoon, Ellie McCutcheon

Cast: Erika Ishii, Rina Hoshino

Header image courtesy of Jenn Ravenna Tran