Shô Miyake’s All the Long Nights is a film about small things: decency, kindness, why people help each other out, how those acts can inspire others. The first character we meet is Misa (Mone Kamishiraishi), a sensitive type who suffers from premenstrual syndrome. In the opening scene, this causes Misa to lose her cool at work, and while the situation is smoothed over, she quits out of shame. Leaving the city, she lands a gig in a suburban company, assembling astronomical sets, and meets Takatoshi (Hokuto Matsumura), a young, panic attack-prone man who recently left a job under similar circumstances. After an initial misunderstanding, their orbits align into something that looks like love but never skews romantic.

If that all sounds a bit saccharine, bear with it: in Miyake’s previous film, Small, Slow But Steady, the director took the autobiography of Keiko Ogasawara, a hearing-impaired female boxer, and told it with warm colors and cinematic grain––including some conspicuous nods to late Ozu––losing the sharper edges of Ogasawara’s story. In All The Long Nights, a softer film in many ways but one with a similar sense of precariousness, some acts of goodwill are paid forward and some are returned. Misa cuts Takatoshi’s hair (very badly). Takatoshi helps her find an outlet for pent-up frustrations. Many people offer each other delicious-looking snacks. Later, Misa and Takatoshi collaborate on a project to bring one of the company’s portable planetariums to a local school (not unlike the one in I Saw The TV Glow). It’s almost always incredibly relaxing.

All The Long Nights is based on a 2020 novel of the same name by Maiko Seo and seems, at first, like an odd choice of material: it’s languid in early sequences, with a goofiness that feels indelicate––not least given Misa’s affliction and the director’s gender. But it quickly develops into something contemplative; that Seo assisted with the adaptation, along with Kiyohito Wada, probably didn’t hurt. When Misa moves to the new company, the whole film seems to grow in confidence and Kamishiraishi’s delicate performance emerges with it. A big part of what makes it work is Miyake’s patience allowing personal histories to gradually reveal themselves during private moments. As a viewer you become privy to their baggage in ways the other characters are not, making their understanding all the more moving. Takatoshi’s arc is especially notable here, with Miyake devoting an unusual amount of screen time to his support network: from the sister (Sawako Fujima) who joins him at therapy to his relationship with his old boss (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) who is still upset to have let him go.

These journeys of personal growth come packaged in a film that gradually starts to feel like a cozy sweater. The shift from urban alienation to Misa’s new job is as reflected in the increasingly sun-dappled weather as it is in the color palette and costumes (by the end, there was so much knitwear onscreen I almost felt the static). The lilting piano score, by DJ Hi’Spec, ascends in a similarly gentle and joyful fashion, as does the warmth of Yuta Tsukinaga’s grainy 16mm images. The director maybe tempts faith by introducing two school kids––they interview Misa and her colleagues for a documentary project––but the scenes are irresistible. Even earthquakes seem to hit the town with a gentle touch. Perhaps best of all is Misa’s new boss, Kazuo (a lovely turn by Ken Mitsuishi), who speaks to the plants as he waters them and wears the company zip-up with a strangely attractive pragmatism. You would probably work for him, too.

Miyake peppers it all with bittersweet reminders of how finite things can be, particularly Kazuo’s memories of his dead brother. These resurface when Misa and Takatoshi start using the man’s notebooks and recordings for their project––a subplot that builds to one of the most transcendental cuts I’ve seen in years. Aesthetic allusions aside, if Miyake’s cinema shares one value with Ozu’s, it is a regard for humility. When in doubt, try a little tenderness.

All the Long Nights premiered at the 2024 Berlinale.

Grade: B+

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