Of Love & Law (2017)

Review #1,617

Director:  Hikaru Toda
Plot:  Fumi and Kazu run the first law firm in Japan set up by an openly gay couple.  As lawyers driven by their own experience of being outsiders, they attract a range of clients who reveal the hidden diversity of a country that prides itself for collective obedience, politeness and conformity.

Genre:  Documentary
Awards:  Won Golden Firebird Award (HK International Film Festival)
Runtime:  94 mins
Rating:  R21 (passed clean) for homosexual theme
International Sales:  Little Stranger Films

This is an inconspicuous but charming documentary, like discovering a nice eatery in a hidden corner of the city.  Premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival and competed at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, Of Love & Law is the first full documentary feature by Hikaru Toda, who previously co-directed Love Hotel (2014), an intimate look into one of the most private spaces in Japanese society.  In Of Love & Law, Toda focuses instead on the outwardly exploits of an openly gay couple who operate a law firm, the first of its kind in the country.  

Despite being minorities in a conservative society, these two lawyers, Fumi and Kazu, do their part to take on cases that involve the individual being discriminated against by the society at large, or authorities who try to bully the powerless man or woman.  Toda’s approach is to give us a sense of these cases by following Fumi and Kazu in their professional work, and how they tackle the issues despite the odds.  

One fascinating case involves a young woman who creates art out of female genitalia, in hopes of pushing the boundaries for individual liberation at the expense of (allegedly) breaking obscenity laws.  Another case centers on a teacher who is sacked for not standing up and singing the national anthem in school.  Although not all the cases involve issues of gender or LGBT discrimination, most reveal the society’s abject treatment of minorities, in this case the non-conformists who decide to be (or simply are) different.  Through these cases, Toda shows us the duo’s strong support for the disenfranchised while letting us feel their support and love for each other when the going gets tough.

Scenes of Fumi and Kazu cooking and dining at home are heartwarming, and so is their foster caring for a young teenager who lives with them like a surrogate son.  They also take up parenting classes in hopes of being certified legally fit to be foster parents in the future.  It is a breezy, light-hearted work, but is also serious about its content.  While it won’t change laws or attitudes overnight, a film like Of Love & Law is very much a tonic for the soul.  It’s high time something like this gets produced in Singapore in the near future—conversations about how we can improve society through social justice need to begin from the point of empathy.  Toda’s work shows us that although challenges are aplenty, possibilities are endless, one step at a time.  

Verdict:  A charming documentary about a Japanese gay couple who are lawyers, and what their jobs reveal about societal attitudes toward LGBT issues and treatment of minorities.



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