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Oh Lucy! 2017

Oh Lucy!

Oh Lucy!

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About ''Oh Lucy!'' 💬

'OH LUCY!' is based on a short film of the same name that was written and directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi in 2014.

Setsuko Kawashima (Shinobu Terajima) is seemingly stuck with her life in Tokyo until she is convinced by her niece, Mika Ogawa (Shioli Kutsuna) to enroll in an unorthodox English class that requires her to wear a blonde wig and take on an American persona named 'Lucy.' The new identity awakens something dormant in Setsuko, and she quickly falls for her American instructor, John (Josh Hartnett). When John suddenly disappears from class and Setsuko learns he and Mika were in fact dating, she enlists the help of her sister, Ayako (Kaho Minami) and flies halfway across the world to the outskirts of Southern California in search of the runaway couple. In a brave new world of tattoo parlors and seedy motels, family ties and past lives are tested as Setsuko struggles to preserve the dream and promise of 'Lucy.'


Q: OH LUCY! began as a short film. Can you talk a little bit about where the idea came from and how you expanded it into a feature? Were you always intending to create a feature?

Atsuko Hirayanagi: The idea came from a class exercise, where we were asked to write about ''someone you know'' in life. I picked someone in my life who was the least likely to be portrayed as a heroine in a film. The person I picked was one who always seemed to be hiding her true feelings, and I wanted to see what it would take to get her to speak her mind, and see how far she would go if given the permission to. So I gave her a new identity: Lucy. Funnily enough, the idea was to write a feature initially, but my professor, who is now the other writer of OH LUCY! [Boris Frumin], told me, ''No, that's not a feature, it's a short.'' So I wrote it as a short and shot it as my thesis film. It's a funny process in hindsight, as I first compressed the idea into a short, then expanded it into a feature.

Q: The film begins in Japan and starts with a suicide followed by a retirement party. Most of the settings are drab and depressing. This becomes even more noticeable when the action shifts to America, which is brighter and more open. John also teaches Lucy that American English should sound ''lazy and more relaxed.'' Can you talk a little bit about the cultural connotations of the film and what you are trying to say with them?

Atsuko Hirayanagi: I'm not trying to say something. It's just the way it is. I feel we are all the same underneath our masks, and I wanted to show those unmasked moments of reality in Japan.

As for the contrast with the US, again, we're not so different from each other - our fundamental needs and fears are the same.

America, ''the land of the free'' - that phrase is the first thing that many Japanese people associate the country with, and it has a magical power. America is free, big and has endless open spaces and wide horizons. It has a funny spell on us. Setsuko's first experience of the US is of the shady back streets of San Fernando though, rather than the sun-soaked beaches of ''LA.'' The truth is that reality is not that romantic.

Q: The film is quite funny at times. Can you tell us about your approach to humor? It's often very dark and often arises from discomfort or cultural confusion. One has the sense sometimes that one shouldn't laugh, but then can't help but do so.

Atsuko Hirayanagi: I find humor when people are too dead serious and too caught up in the moment. When someone trips, what's funny is not the fact that the person tripped, it's funny because that person tried to act like it didn't happen - even if her/his face is all red. If someone farts at a funeral, it's so funny because we all try to act like it didn't happen, while kids are cracking up out loud and parents are smacking their children's heads. We all want to laugh, but we, of course, hold our laughter to be ''polite.'' But when we're watching a film, it's okay to be ourselves. I like showing those moments.

Q: Did you improve? There is a sense of lightness in many of the scenes.

Atsuko Hirayanagi: We did some improv within the parameters of the story and the script. When I felt things didn't look quite natural, I asked actors to go wherever they wanted to move, or to say the lines however they wanted to say them, using their impulses. I'm not attached to the exact lines that I wrote as long as the new ones convey the same feeling and don't lose the nuance. For the same reason, I don't like rehearsing and many takes, as it loses the rawness and spontaneity of the moment. Same goes for blocking. It was magical working with Terajima-san and the other lead actors who also valued the same approach. Every take felt special.

Q: What was the biggest challenge on the film?

Atsuko Hirayanagi: The biggest challenge was being away from my two young kids. On the production side, coming from a student thesis shoot, where you have to do so many things yourself, I felt the feature was easier, as you have so many more people helping you, and they're professional. I could just focus on directing on the set. I am so grateful for our incredible teams both in Japan and the US. I can't thank the producers enough for bringing this team together.


''As a storyteller, I am attracted to the quiet ones, because they are the ones who have more to say. I like to imagine what they would do if given the permission to be loud. OH LUCY! is the result of this imagination.

I myself turned into the 'quiet one' when I was a 17-year-old exchange student from Japan in the United States. I couldn't speak English, and was immediately perceived as a quiet Asian girl. There was the persona that people saw me as, and then there was the real me, who wanted to express herself. These two personas were in a constant struggle to be one. That experience is reflected in Setsuko's journey.

As a mother of two young kids, I learned by observing them that wanting to be heard is an innate behavior in us humans. They would act out and sometimes even destroy things when they're not heard and want attention. I felt they're trying to tell us that they exist.

As we grow into adults, we learn to control ourselves, yet I feel our need to be heard never goes away. I feel our voice is always looking for a place to exist. For me, films are that place - the place for our voice to be heard, and a place that acknowledges our existence.''

Atsuko Hirayanagi

''Oh Lucy!'' Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Atsuko Hirayanagi

Writing Credits

Atsuko Hirayanagi and Boris Frumin (Screenplay)

Atsuko Hirayanagi (Based on the 2014 short film by)


Shinobu Terajima

Kaho Minami

Kôji Yakusho

Josh Hartnett

Shioli Kutsuna

Megan Mullally

Reiko Aylesworth

Music by

Erik Friedlander

Cinematography by

Paula Huidobro

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Countries: Japan, United States

''Oh Lucy!'' Official Trailer

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