This intimate Japanese drama offers rare insight into the world of a young woman with cerebral palsy — and it’s all the rarer for casting an actress who actually has the disorder in real life. “37 Seconds” is a moving story of independence that will leave many in the audience with a better understanding of a new perspective and others with the feeling of finally being seen on screen.
At 23 years old, manga artist Yuma (Mei Kayama) lives a sheltered life at home with her protective mother (Misuzu Kanno), but she wants more. She shares her erotic work with an editor, who tells her that she needs more sexual experience for authenticity on the page, sending Yuma on a journey of self-discovery.
Writer-director Hikari uses Yuma’s chosen medium well, showing panels, dialogue bubbles and animated drawings to display the artist’s talent. But it’s sparsely incorporated, and the film’s latter half — which also features a surprising revelation — feels overlong at times.
However, “37 Seconds” is frank in its depiction of the rhythms of Yuma’s life, revealing the complex interdependence between her and her mother. This isn’t the anodyne, awards-baiting film about disability that viewers might be used to; instead, Hikari’s feature debut is sensitive and empathetic, showing a young woman who is more than just her cerebral palsy. Yuma is a wildly creative, sexual person who deserves more than her society often gives her.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Playing: Available Jan. 31 on Netflix