Clover (2014)
Nicholas Driscoll
June 23, 2015
Note: review may contain spoilers

Whoever is looking for good luck in their movie-watching schedule, avoid Clover, a 2014 movie based off of a popular shojo manga by Chiya Toriko and from director Takeshi Furusawa. I recently wrote a review of another movie based off of a shojo comic—Blue Spring Ride (2014)—which featured a bewilderingly awful romance at the center of the narrative. However, for as awful as the romance was in Blue Spring Ride, the romance in Clover is actually WORSE.

Let me jump in and quick go over the plot, such as it is. I want to get this over with.

Saya Suzuki (played by Emi Takei, who recently was in that live-action Ruruoni Kenshin film) is a hard-working but dim-witted cutie who works at a hotel under the malicious guidance of Susumu Tsuge (played by Tadayoshi Ookura). Tsuge is the resident hottie at the hotel, and every unattached female employee is hot for him apparently—except Saya, who Tsuge constantly denigrates, berates, attacks, etc. Saya’s heart belongs to Haruki Hino (played by Kento Nagayama), a movie star whom she dated in high school. He had promised to return to her, and she holds out on that promise. But when she sees him in another girl’s hotel room, she is disenchanted… and further, out of the blue, after a day of continued mockery and insults, Tsuge asks Saya to be his girl, possibly with an eye towards marriage. In order to impress Haruki, Saya accepts Tsuge’s request.

Saya doesn’t really like Tsuge, but they go on a date and then have some sex, so she changes her mind. Tsuge, though, is only interested in his job. When he is transferred to Paris to work in a hotel there, he doesn’t protest, and doesn’t tell Saya—one of Saya’s friends let’s her in on the details. (Oh, but he was PLANNING to tell her.) In Paris, he works closely with another babe (the boss’s daughter) who wants to get it on with him, but he tells Saya none of this, and ignores all of her calls and messages. When he comes back after six months, he plans to meet Saya, but then changes his mind because of work and, again, tells her nothing. His boss forces him into an engagement with his scheming daughter, but he barely protests and, again, tells Saya nothing. Meanwhile, Haruki comes back into Saya’s life and actually treats her well and is still in love with her. He protects her, comforts her, spends time with her. But hang it all, Saya is in love with Tsuge, so despite years of waiting for Haruki, despite Tsuge being the enormous donkey-face he is, she rejects Haruki.

But will she be able to get together with Tsuge in the end?

Seriously? We’re supposed to WANT these two to get together?!

I mean, what in the honest flip is wrong with these romance writers? For me, if I am going to enjoy a romance story, I have to like the main characters. Their relationship has to be interesting—not just difficult, but touching and loving in a real way. Something touching or fun or really moving. Not like THIS kind of messed up romance garbage crap. This kind of romance story—the kind embodied both in Clover and the aforementioned Blue Spring Ridee—is deeply harmful because it presents hurtful behavior as ultimately acceptable (these supremely awful romantic leads rarely if ever apologize for their Neanderthal behavior), and the audience just has to accept (I guess?) that these guys will change someday or have suddenly changed right at the climax into loving partners. They just have some rough spots or some dark secrets in their past, so the women should ignore the hurtful behavior and just love them anyway until they change—IF they change! It’s like the world’s worst romance advice—stick with the insensitive twits, change them and make them better by marrying them—and even worse, it’s packaged as some wonderful romance, like this is how it’s SUPPOSED to be in the BEST of situations, and it just makes me froth! This kind of grotesque romanticization encourages real women to throw away their lives in truly wretchedly miserable relationships because “they can change him with love.”

I do think romantic partners should help each other grow—but if you are betting your life on someone, you have to be able to trust them, and GOOD GRAVY an ounce of respect goes a long way! Love is about a WHOLE lot more than just feelings and flowers, and this kind of creepy love story just makes me want to hurl chunks at the screen.

Ugh, yick, yark, barf, blah, vomit, YUCK!

Okay, but other than that, other than the ENTIRE PLOT, how’s the movie?

Oh, it’s not like everything is completely awful. Emi Takei turns in a cute and bubbly performance—it’s easy to like her. Tadayoshi Ookura is fine as Tsuge—it’s not that his acting sucks, it’s just that the character is just hideous. The atmosphere of the movie is light and bright, with goofy cartoon sound effects and dumb pratfalls that make things “funny” (this is a romantic comedy, after all), and the plot moves along at a brisk pace which at least makes things mildly interesting. Oddly, the funny stuff mostly disappears halfway in, and the “romance” turns largely “serious” in tone, which makes the feel of the movie a little uneven.

The soundtrack really bites, though, with several pop songs sung in English by Japanese artists—and it’s just painful. The pop songs really hurt, but other than that, the music was… okay? I can’t remember extremely well, as this was the last movie I watched on the 13 hour flight to Japan, and everything was kind of a mess of discomfort by that point.

Anyway, I don’t want to belabor this review. The romance of Clover is seriously misguided, even if the movie itself has a vanilla veneer—sweet but nothing special, with spirited performances ever so slightly lifting the dreck material. The real luck is that the movie hasn’t been released in America and probably never will be.