Once more, Akiko Ohku brings us a paranoid-delusional female lead in Hold Me Back. One might remember her other adorkable protagonist in Tremble All You Want (2017). But this time our heroine, Mitsuko, hears voices. “A”, her imaginary friend, is in fact just a part of herself. The male persona is like her, but more confident, observant and realistic. He encourages her to seek out her crush, though she lacks the confidence to do so without A’s persistence.

Though it’s not explored enough to be certain why, there are a lot of allusions to food, cooking and dining. Perhaps the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach. But more than that, there is something to be said about meals bringing people together. Many cute boutiques in Japan sell food items and accessories to cater to the most cheesy romantic.

Mitsuko has embraced the solo life for years. Maybe stopping at a croquette stand on the way home from work is more convenient than stinking up her one-room apartment with deep-fry oil. After all, Japan is filled with single-serve delicacies at affordable prices. Two croquettes for a dollar! At that price, why cook for one person? But soon, she discovers the fun of making meals for two. The problem with that is giving up the freedom of her solo time. Will she really lose all her me-time if she wants to have a boyfriend? Or was she just flying solo out of loneliness and the lack of boyfriends in the first place?

Her inner dialogue (with A) sends her into a tizzy when things start to get serious with her love interest. As with Tremble All You Want, some of the story arcs seem a little superfluous and slow to attain their point. But beyond their pace, they all have tidbits worth seeing. To label Hold Me Back a “girly movie” wouldn’t be fair, but it also wouldn’t be entirely untrue. A female director tells the story of a female character, dealing with what would normally be referred to as “the female experience”. It may not resonate as well with male audiences, but most women over the age of 30 will really feel this. The struggle is real for those who want to share meaningful relationships but also retain their independence. And it hurts. It hurts in a good way.


Hold Me Back – 7 PM JST, November 7th, 2020 (Please note, screening times are in Japan Standard Time)