Two mismatched friends find themselves caught up in an ironic love square in Takayoshi Watanabe’s infinitely charming Christmas rom-com, You’ll Fall for Me (君は僕をスキになる, Kimi wa Boku wo Suki ni Naru). A bubble-era nonsense comedy filled with surreal humour and zany gags along with genuine heart, the film pits friendship against love but not only of the romantic kind as the two women each consider acts of selflessness in knowing that pursuing, or preventing the other from pursuing, their romantic destiny will necessarily cause each of them pain.
Beginning in the summer the film opens with a bizarre incident in which mousy pudding-obsessed librarian Tomoko (Yuki Saito) thinks she sees her neighbour across the way, Chika (Kuniko Yamada), jump off the roof of a nearby building only it turns out to be a strange practical joke. Chika certainly has a flair for the dramatic along with an unusual personality that has made her something of an outcast at her office job while even her friendship with Tomoko seems somewhat one-sided with her constant refrains of “you’re my best friend!” which are generally met by a blunt reply from Tomoko of “we’re not friends”. In any case, Chika’s current dilemma is that she doesn’t have a date lined up for Christmas Eve and thinks she’s jinxed because she always seems to get dumped right before the big day, while Tomoko is rather shy and it seems had no expectations of getting a boyfriend anyway.
Their prospective suitors are a couple of salarymen, the feckless son of a CEO, Kyosuke (Masaya Kato), and his nerdy best friend Junpei (Senri Oe) who like Tomoko is a spectacles wearer. The pair have a typical meet cute when they bump into each other at a crossing and knock each other’s glasses off, each ending up with the wrong pair and not realising until it’s too late. Meanwhile, at the office, Kyosuke is being pressured by his father (Jo Shishido) to embrace adult responsibility and meet a prospective candidate for an arranged marriage who looks suspiciously like Chika though Kyosuke never looks at the photo. To get him off his back, he says he’s dating a woman from the company. Because he’s just that popular, a stage event is organised at which Kyosuke is supposed to announce who it is he has his eye on but he scandalises just about everyone by naming Chika who wasn’t really in the running.
In the opening scenes, however, the guys had been indulging in a bit of 80s excess dribbling champagne from a helicopter some of which had rained down on Tomoko as if anointing her from above. She ends up having a second meet cute, this time with Kyosuke, who accidentally hypnotises her to think she’s a dog leading her to then attack him. A similar thing happens to Chika who is looked after by Junpei after having too much to drink on a date with Kyosuke at a nightclub where Tomoko had also agreed to go on an awkward date with Junpei. Inconveniently, the entirely mismatched Kyosuke ends up falling for the mousy charms of Tomoko who at this point doesn’t know that he’s “dating” Chika.
While the film presents an interesting picture of women in the workplace at the height of the bubble era, it also subtly undermines the prevailing consumerist culture of the age while preserving the romanticisation of Christmas. They two women each want to find a boyfriend to spend Christmas Eve with partly for reasons of social status and partly because they are simply quite lonely, Chika in particular very invested in her friendship with Tomoko while she, much more introverted, seems continually exasperated but despite herself allows Chika to dominate her existence. After becoming aware of their romantic conflict, the two women end up spending Christmas Eve together at a nice restaurant prioritising friendship over romance until one of them realises the other is unhappy and after discovering a note from their suitor asking them to meet in a local park chooses to spend the rest of the evening alone so her friend can go get her man.
Then again, there’s a clear idea that Tomoko in particular is undergoing a kind of transformation signalling her shift away from Junpei by deciding to get contacts, putting on lipstick, and dressing in a slightly less mousy fashion while Chika’s attempt to become the sort of woman that Kyosuke would date by dressing and acting more like the other women in the office largely backfires. Meanwhile Kyosuke and Junpei are also changing, Kyosuke giving up his womanising ways and becoming more serious in his pursuit of Tomoko while Junpei comes to appreciate the vulnerable force of nature that is Chika. The film takes its title from Kyosuke’s attempt at hypnotising Tomoko into falling in love with him only to find that he’s the one who’s fallen under her spell as they move towards the anticipated Christmas Eve climax accompanied by the now classic song by Tatsuro Yamashita. Faced with the choice, the women do indeed choose friendship over love but discover that it isn’t really a choice at all because they both just want their friend to be happy even if it means a lonely Christmas for themselves as the ironic role reversal of the closing coda makes clear.
Original trailer (no subtitles)
Tatsuro Yamashita – Christmas Eve