‘Oh Lucy!’ review: Cultures clash in unique Josh Hartnett film

‘Oh Lucy!’

Directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi

Starring Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett


Playing at The Landmark at 57 West, Village East

Here is a movie centered on Japanese-American cultural clashes that includes a juicy part for Josh Hartnett, Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 hit “A Thousand Miles” and extreme familial dysfunction.

“Oh Lucy!” is, in other words, proudly and demonstrably its own thing. Filmmaker Atsuko Hirayanagi presents a picture of alienation and loneliness that is both painstakingly deadpan and sincere in the way it observes protagonist Setsuko Kawashima (Shinobu Terajima) as English classes in Tokyo with the handsome John (Hartnett) awaken her from a yearslong stupor and inspire a life-changing trip to Southern California.

“Oh Lucy!” begins with Setsuko (whose English class alter ego is Lucy) stuck in a drone-like office nightmare and follows her as she increasingly embraces the power of her emotions after years of repressing them.

It is unabashedly strange in the ways it assembles seemingly disparate elements, and it’s unafraid to bring its character toward an unlikable place in the service of its broader truths. The filmmaker has a keen eye for playing the fish-out-of-water elements in a fashion that feels organic rather than obvious and the larger ideas about the pervasive global power of American culture land in interesting ways.