Directed by Yusuke Taki and written by Yuji Sakamoto, In Love and Deep Water (Kureiji Kuruzu) plunges its characters and us viewers into international waters with its romantic mystery. While the teaser trailer featured a lot of promise and cutesy vibes, the film’s story gets lost at sea. With the romance, mystery, and other side plots pulling the story in all kinds of directions, the lack of clear focus muddies the experience and drags out the film longer than it needs to be.
In Love and Deep Water is set on the gigantic luxury cruise liner, the MSC Bellissima. Based on the clientele, it is more oriented towards the wealthy and elite. After taking off from Hokkaido, the plan is for the ship to make its way to the Aegean Sea. The key to ensuring that the guests are taken care of properly and promptly? The lovely butler staff, with Suguru Ubukata (Ryo Yoshizawa) as the quintessential lightning rod for customers’ grievances. Always quick with an apology and deep bow, Suguru takes a lot of abuse even when the customers are way over the line.
This aspect of his personality starts to change with the arrival of the mysterious passenger, Chizuru Banjaku (Aoi Miyazaki). Her mission? To find Suguru’s girlfriend and confront her about the affair she appears to be having with her own boyfriend. The prospect of his girlfriend cheating on him is stressful enough. Add in a murder and Suguru has more than his hands full in trying to keep things afloat.
As a whole cohesive story, In Love and Deep Water is trying to juggle too much. The core focus of the story is on Chizuru and Suguru grappling with the reality that their partners are cheating on them. What throws them off balance is the murder that’s committed on the boat. From there, there’s a lack of balance as the screenwriter seems unsure as to which storyline should take precedence over the other, simultaneously spending too much time on both stories whilst also neglecting to bring both elements fully together so they don’t feel like afterthoughts.
The love story is the stronger of the two, with the mystery being both obvious yet still underwritten enough that when the twist reveal finally happens, you’re left scratching your head. Yes, the clues are there but they register as little more than a footnote than anything else. With such an intriguing location to set a murder mystery at, a little more development to make the mystery pop would have helped the story develop its sea legs.
Confounding things even further are the additional storylines brought on by the side characters in the film. Whether it’s the producer/actor duo, the former yakuza member with the yakuza princess, or the begrungingly subservient child, there’s too much to focus on expositional fluff that doesn’t necessarily pay off by the end. There might be some underlying commentary about cheating couples as a commonality between many of the characters but the takeaway isn’t clearly developed if that was the intention.
What helps lift things up a bit are the performances given by the cast. Featuring many familiar faces, everyone is all in on what is required of them. As our primary focus on this journey, actors Ryo Yoshizawa and Aoi Miyazaki are the stars of In Love and Deep Water. Their chemistry resonates, and the relationship they build onscreen together easily makes the viewer invested. They were so much fun to watch that had the story decided to completely focus on romance only, I’d still be all in.
Separating it by its parts, In Love and Deep Water had the potential to be strong had it had the proper balance within its story. With too much focus paid to the wrong sections of the story, it not only impacts the pacing but also makes us question what it is we’re looking for. The mystery is underwritten and, while taking up some time in the film, doesn’t have the impact it should. If you want to stick around for the adorable romantic chemistry between the two leads, then go for it. Otherwise, maybe toss yourself overboard and swim towards dry land for better ventures.
In Love and Deep Water is streaming exclusively now on Netflix.
In Love and Deep Water
Separating it by its parts, In Love and Deep Water had the potential to be strong had it had the proper balance within its story.