I am not a runner, and when I do run, I feel the pain (in my legs) more than I feel the wind (on my face). So after learning in Feel the Wind that anyone can run and enjoy running, I have decided I ought to get off my bottom a little more and do some exercise. Yes, Feel the Wind is that kind of movie. It is uplifting and inspirational, as it describes an incredible level of fitness that anyone can achieve after putting in some (OK, a lot of) hard work.
Kakeru (Kento Hayashi) is a talented runner. By chance, he comes to join the Kansei University tracking team, led by Haiji (Keisuke Koide). Consisting of some unwilling participants, the team forms and commences training with one goal in mind – to compete in the Hakone Relay Marathon, Japan’s biggest inter-university marathon race. But to do so, they must first qualify in the preliminaries…
Feel the Wind is more than just about running. It spends a fair bit of time telling us about the different characters, played by a likeable cast, and how they have come to stay at Bamboo Hut (the dormitory of the tracking team). Like all good leaders, Haiji leads by example, looks after his team members, knows the strength of each of them, and helps them fulfil their roles within the team. Kakeru, on the other hand, is an exceptionally gifted runner, who gets to learn a lesson or two about running after joining the tracking team. All of the other team members have distinct personalities and interests, and worthy of a special mention is the character of the overseas student Musa, who gets to say the absolutely funniest line in the entire film. Viewers see the formation of the team, development of bonds between the young runners, as well as the inevitable arguments between them. And as we learn more and more about these characters, and what the race means to each one of them, they also become more and more endearing. By the end, it is really hard not to be cheering them on in what would turn out to be the race of their lives.
One concept that I particularly like about this film is the idea that in sports, training is as important as talent, and that spirit is just as critical as skills. The message here is really quite clear – while not everyone can be champion athletes, anyone can become quite good at sports. It is remarkably powerful to see the characters, regardless of their abilities, do their very best to reach that finish line.
As a first time director, Sumio Omori has impressed with his skilled telling of the simple story using his own screenplay. The running scenes are particularly well directed and edited, and the ending is just glorious. With so many things going for it, Feel the Wind definitely has the potentials to become the biggest crowd pleaser at this year’s Japanese Film Festival!