Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is an amazing family story served in a slice of life setting. The film centers on the dynamic between two very different personalities of mother and daughter. The titular Nikuko is loud, a bit clumsy, heavy set and is seen sleeping or eating a lot. Kikuko is a smart, agile middle schooler who is into sports and still has a skinny body frame she hopes never grows into one like Nikuko’s.
The main setting of the story is in a picturesque seaside bay in northern Japan. The town appears to be older, steeped in the trappings of families that work hard to make a living and a community that is aging, but still close knit. The introduction to Lady Nikuko is comical and sets the tone for the kind of person she is. She has traveled and made mistakes while also doing her best to become the mom that Kikuko needs to support her. Kikuko has reached the age where her classmates are starting to develop and she struggles with what life may bring to challenge her. Will she be able to maintain her friendships or will she drift away? What is she feeling about the kid who makes faces at her when he thinks she isn’t looking? The story doesn’t take the expected path and the third act caught me a little by surprise.
This movie is subtitled, but well acted by native voice actors. The boisterous Nikuko will make you feel her enthusiasm for life, her determination and her care for her child, even if she is a bit embarrassing. I really loved how natural the conversations flowed between the characters. Outside of Nikuko, the actors’ talents made the characters feel real and plausible. A minor detail of comedy was the voices given to random critters peppered through the movie as they appear in the transitional scenes.
The set pieces are gorgeous. The backgrounds are created with technical skill and replicate the minutiae of the real world in a dedicated level of detail to weathering, decay and debris you may find in an ocean side town, or inside of a small dwelling or a school.
The characters are animated with attention to realism, with the exception of Nikuko, who is just larger than life and cannot be constrained to our standard of normal.
The characters are animated with attention to realism, with the exception of Nikuko, who is just larger than life and cannot be constrained to our standard of normal. The story has a real heart and takes the viewer on a journey through the struggles of being a single parent from both the eyes of the parent and the child.
Conner Mistie’s Final Thought
At the end of the film, after the final end credits scene, I took a few moments to think about and reflect on parents who will do anything to see their child grow up happy and become their own individuals. It made me think for a moment on the parent who raised me and how much sacrifice goes into raising a child. For all the antics the film presents us with, the message in the heart to heart between Nikuko and Kikuko is the part that sticks with you beyond the end of the credits. Family will always be what you make of it and who invests in you as much as you invest in them. This is a wonderful film for parents, children and all other family dynamics to watch together and start conversations that might be a little embarrassing or awkward.