A high school girl named Izumi finds a lost wallet in the street and, on picking it up, finds that it it contains a ridiculous amount of money (¥300,000 to be exact) for someone to be carrying around in the normal course of their life. Her first thought is to hand it over to the police but unfortunately the local police box is empty. She checks the ID and wanders over to the address but, noticing the name of the head of household, becomes sure she’s seen the name somewhere before. A brief browse of some old newspapers reveals that the wallet owner’s father is head of a horse racing firm and that therefore, in her very specific world view, the contents of the wallet are ill-gotten gains resulting from the exploitation of the dreams and desperation of those with little left to lose. This accordingly decided, she gives up the idea of returning the wallet and decides to redistribute the money herself. To begin with she pressures a middle-aged man into accepting a loan of part of the money and gains an (unsigned) IOU in return. She then shares the discovery with her friends who are unaware of the original amount of money the wallet contained but believe one of the receipts inside must be hers and blame her for spending some of the money. On noticing that the owner is good-looking (and presumably wealthy) the other two convince the Izumi to return the money, which they do and each receive a small finders fee in return.
The owner Sato, however, comes across the IOU and figures out what must have happened. Noticing Izumi’s odd habit of scoring articles in the newspaper according to her own moral code he makes an interesting proposition. He’ll let the money go provided Izumi creates a newspaper that contains only good news to cheer up a friend of his who’s seriously ill in hospital. She in turn convinces him to persuade the other girls by flirting with one of them so that they’ll help with the paper. None of them really know though just how much this project is going to affect them.
At heart this is a coming of age tale, as the rather immature Izumi comes to discover that even through her hatred of hypocrisy she has acted hypocritically. Her ratings of the newspaper article often swerve wildly to the negative such as her -10 points for a temp worker's strike because, as she views it, the temp workers should’ve known better and got ‘proper jobs’. That she then increases this to -25 points when Sato attempts to point out how unfair her judgement is strikes of petulance and a sort of self-importance that is again something that she would probably award minus points to when judging an article. Her perverse punishment of being made to write positive stories, and her total inability to discern what Sato even means by that, set her on a journey towards really looking at the town she lives in and the people who live there.
Although, to be honest, her wanderings about town might only serve to reinforce just how dull this town is. When not in school Izumi has a part-time job at the bowling alley which seems to be the most fun place Izumi and her friends hang out. Other than that they seem to spend their time at a small coffee shop and when Izumi is alone she seems to enjoy fishing at a small centre whose only other regular is the middle-aged man she convinces to take the money. Unfortunately there just don’t seem to be very many ‘happy’ stories to go around and Sato always finds some fault with what they’ve come up with.
Kobayashi has chosen to film the story in a very washed out black and white which seeks to pick the characters out of the background and lift them from their bland surroundings - an effort at which it succeeds, though it does appear to be an aesthetic choice only. Similarly he’s gone for more of a documentary feeling by chasing a more natural performance style accompanied by diegetic sounds only, which again works very well for him. However, it might be true that the script reflects the way modern teenagers speak and act but it becomes extremely wearing for the audience and Izumi is certainly a very divisive character. Although her boldness is occasionally amusing she’s also quite annoying and you can’t help thinking that she’s being very dense in not figuring out the film’s ‘twist’ much faster than she does. The fact that the twist is so obvious is also a structural weakness of the film, as is the fact that you assume it’s going to end explored more fully than it ends up being. It’s also quite problematic that the person the twist involves turns out to at least look and sound very young - much too young for the other person in the relationship.
There are some interesting things in About the Pink Sky but ultimately it just doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything remotely surprising. It’s a slow and meandering sort of film that takes quite a long time to get where it’s going, but then seems to have forgotten why it went there in the first place. Still, you wouldn’t call it boring as the characters are quite well-drawn and engaging even if some of the performances are a little rough. It really lacks sufficient character to make it interesting enough to recommend, but not a bad film by any means.
About the Pink Sky screened at London's Raindance Festival on 2nd and 3rd October 2012.