November 18, 2019  (Web Review)

Of Love & Law

(2017) 94 min. In Japanese w/English subtitles. DVD: $20: individuals & public libraries; $25: high schools w/PPR; $295: colleges & universities w/PPR. DRA. Frameline Distribution. Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Filmmaker Hikaru Toda’s documentary focuses on Masafumi Yoshida and Kazuyuki Minami—informally known as Fumi and Kazu—who are partners in an Osaka law firm and longtime lovers. (Japan has not legalized same-sex marriage, although the men had their own wedding ceremony.) As the driving force behind Japan’s first law firm run by openly gay men, Fumi and Kazu navigate the peculiar complexities of Japanese society via an interesting client lineup. Among those they represent are the artist Rokudenashiko, who was charged with obscenity for creating vagina-inspired art; a teacher fired for refusing to sing the national anthem during an event; and two individuals struggling to gain legal acknowledgement in Japan’s family registry system (without which they can be denied education, jobs, and passports). The men also deal with Japan’s uneasy acknowledgment of its LGBT population: participants at a gay rights event avoid having their faces on camera, while Kazu speaks openly about the difficulties he encountered when coming out to his family (Kazu’s mother eventually came to terms with her son’s sexual orientation and is now part of the law firm staff). Of Love & Law also touches on how Japanese law prevents Fumi and Kazu from adopting children and looks at the bond they establish with a disenfranchised teenager. While the film’s low-key approach occasionally results in leisurely pacing, overall it offers a distinctive and fascinating view of multiple aspects of Japanese society. Highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)