Unlike bad Korean Romantic-Comedies, where these types of narrative shifts sinks the film, “Cafe Isobe” handles its more dramatic moments with just the right touch. The film itself is directed by Keisuke Yoshida, who previously directed the 2005 film “Raw Summer” and handled lighting duties for several other films. After watching “Cafe Isobe” I do have to say Keisuke Yoshida has some chops and you should definitely watch out for his future projects.
In “Cafe Isobe” blue-collar, middle-aged single dad Yujiro Isobe (Hiroyuki Miyasako) gains a large inheritance after the death of his grandfather. His ex-wife warns their daughter that Yujiro will probably quit his job after the inheritance, but Yujiro denies this. After Yujiro collects his inheritance, he immediately quits his job.
His teenage daughter Sakiko (Riisa Naka) wonders what her father will do next and the unexpected answer comes about shortly. After Yujiro notices that cafes attract large amounts of good looking women he decides to open a cafe himself. Yujiro has no experience in this line of work, but that doesn’t deter him. To the dismay of Sakiko, Yujiro styles the cafe in a tacky 1970’s retro vibe with authentic leopard prints and vintage 70’s posters. Now, Yujiro opens “Cafe Isobe” to the general public.
Keisuke Yoshida either did a masterful job in picking his three main leads or just got really lucky. I’m guessing it’s a combination of both. Hiroyuki Miyasako who played the middle aged dad did it so well you pretty much forget that he is portraying another character. Teenage actress Riisa Naka (likely to become a big star in the future) comes across as incredibly charming, but also conveys a level of bitchiness that comes unexpected. Lastly, I always enjoy Kumiko Aso in any film and she doesn’t disappoint here playing an oddball misfit with low self-esteem.
“Cafe Isobe” is a film you have to see. The movie has bits of the oddball dysfunctional family traits find in Toshiaki Toyoda’s “Hanging Garden,” a similar level of sweet humor found in Shunji Iwai’s “Hana & Alice,” a taste for the darkside like Shunji Iwai’s “All About Lily Chou-Chou” and the visuals of a compelling indie film found in recent StyleJam releases like “Adrift in Tokyo” and “Fine, Totally Fine.” Even better, “Cafe Isobe” is based entirely an original script by Keisuke Yoshida - it’s not based on a manga. The film also combines a level of familiarity with unexpected twists that makes it all the more enjoyable enjoyable to watch. “Cafe Isobe” is a unique film that can appeal equally to teens, bohemian hipsters, and middle aged adults.