films seen
19
average score
3.26*
nationality
Japan - 57 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

A director who built his career on dreamy, poetic teen dramas. Iwai's style is breezy, effortless and subtle, but rarely without a darker twinge. No doubt one of the essentials of contemporary Japanese cinema, but his films are not for everyone.

Rare treats

The Case of Hana & Alice

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Hana to Alice Satsujin Jiken
Specifics
Japan [2015] - 100m
Genre
Drama, Animation
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
The Case of Hana & Alice poster

Iwai found the right balance between Japanese live action drama and the magic of animation. The film looks great, the story is moving, the characters quirky but lovable.

Hana and Alice

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Hana to Arisu
Specifics
Japan [2004] - 135m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Hana and Alice poster

It's a very sweet, very natural and naive little film that has charm aplenty and feels particularly short for a film that runs well past the 120-minute barrier.

The good stuff

April Story

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Shigatsu Monogatari
Specifics
Japan [1998] - 67m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
April Story poster

Picnic

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Pikunikku
Specifics
Japan [1996] - 68m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Picnic poster

Swallowtail Butterfly

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Suwarôteiru
Specifics
Japan [1996] - 148m
Genre
Drama, Sci-fi
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Swallowtail Butterfly poster

A vibrant and wild trip through an alternative world. One where the yen became the dominant currency and foreigners flocked to Japan to earn a quick buck. It's one of the least typical films in Iwai's oeuvre, but also one of the most interesting. While a little uneven in places, there is so much raw energy here that I had no trouble convincing me of its strengths a second time around.

Undo

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [1994] - 47m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Undo poster

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Rippu Van Winkuru no Hanayome
Specifics
Japan [2016] - 179m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
toplist position
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle poster

With this film he returns to his core style, picking things up right where he left off back in 2004. Strong acting, an intriguing plot and a warm, dreamy atmosphere make this an easy recommend.

Solid pieces

Last Letter

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [2020] - 120m
Genre
Romance
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Last Letter poster

In a slightly surprising turn of events, Iwai decided to remake Last Letter, his first China-based film released just two years ago. This is pretty much exactly the same film, only shot in Japan with a Japanese cast. For that reason alone, it's probably best to leave some time between watching both films.

The story hasn't really changed (and is still a bit too convoluted). When Yuri returns from her sister's funeral, she goes to a reunion to inform her sister's classmates. Once there she's mistaken for her sister, and she finds herself incapable of telling the truth. When she meets her sister's first love, things get a bit complicated.

Performances are good, with a stand-out parts for Takako Matsu and Suzu Hirose, and a fun cameo from Hideaki Anno. The film looks pristine, with some trademark Iwai shots, the soundtrack is comfy and on point. It's just that the story gets in the way of the atmosphere sometimes, which messes up the pacing.

Last Letter

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Ni Hao, Zhihua
Specifics
China [2018] - 114m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Last Letter poster

Shunji Iwai in China. Last Letter is certainly better than his American adventure, but it doesn't quite match his prime Japanese work. The drama is fine, but there's a little too much intrigue and not enough time to delve into the core drama. The acting is great though and there are some pretty shots scattered throughout the film. A solid entry in Iwai's oeuvre, but he's made better films.

New York, I Love You

by Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Randall Balsmeyer, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner
Specifics
USA [2008] - 103m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
New York, I Love You poster

Jam Films

by Daizaburo Hanada, Jôji Iida, Shunji Iwai, Ryuhei Kitamura, Rokuro Mochizuki, Tetsuo Shinohara, Yukihiko Tsutsumi, Isao Yukisada
Specifics
Japan [2002] - 109m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Jam Films poster

Love Letter

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [1995] - 117m
Genre
Drama, Romance
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Love Letter poster

Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Uchiage Hanabi, Shita kara Miruka? Yoko kara Miruka?
Specifics
Japan [1993] - 49m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? poster

Worthy but flawed

All about Lily Chou-Chou

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Riri Shushu no Subete
Specifics
Japan [2001] - 146m
Genre
Drama, Romance, Thriller, Crime, Music
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
All about Lily Chou-Chou poster

Fried Dragon Fish

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [1993] - 50m
Genre
Mystery, Crime
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Fried Dragon Fish poster

Ghost Soup

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [1992] - 58m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Ghost Soup poster

Dubious filler

The Kon Ichikawa Story

by Shunji Iwai
Also known as
Ichikawa Kon Monogatari
Specifics
Japan [2006] - 83m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
The Kon Ichikawa Story poster

Plain forgettable

Vampire

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan, USA [2011] - 120m
Genre
Drama, Horror, Thriller
More info on
rating
1.5*/5.0*
Vampire poster

Big nopes

Friends after 3.11

by Shunji Iwai
Specifics
Japan [2011] - 120m
Genre
Documentary
More info on
rating
1.0*/5.0*
Friends after 3.11 poster