Craig-725- Film Review- Matcha & Vanilla- A Film By Hamish Downie

Craig Hoffman
5 min readDec 12, 2021

Craig Note- We were afforded the opportunity to review a new film, Matcha & Vanilla. Photos, videos, and some content used herein was provided by the filmaker(s). Used under the Fair Use rules for criticism and critic. No copyright infringement is intended.

*This is not a compensated review.*



“Yuki and Ai are a long-term lesbian couple living in the closet in Japan’s traditional society. When Yuki is diagnosed with terminal cancer, they must fight against their family, the hospital and society in order to stay together until the end.”- (From the Matcha & Vanilla Press Pack)

“…Never ones to shy away from difficult subjects, we were ultimately inspired by the Marriage Equality debate in Taiwan and Australia to hold up a mirror to the situation faced by LGBT couples in Japan, especially those facing a serious illness and being ripped apart from their partners because of family and tradition, as well as societal issues such as poverty (rarely spoken about in LGBT films) and agism[sic]. We felt that this was the perfect project for Tomoko Hayakawa and Qyoko Kudo, whom we have collaborated with many times over, and have achieved much success with. Luckily, they connected with the material, and we were able to make this film together…” — (From the Matcha & Vanilla Press Pack)

Matcha & Vanilla is a film that certainly highlights many difficult issues facing the LGBT-community. It takes a lot of courage to dive into these uncomfortable topics. The film on whole paints a rather grim picture of life for the main leads.

Qyoko Kudo (Ai Sato) and Tomoko Hayakawa (Yuki Tanaka) give solid performances. As the film progresses, their romantic chemistry is less believable. The caretaker-patient elements of the story eventually drown out much of the relationship development.

The supporting characters beyond the leads are given little to do on screen. This becomes problematic when these extra folks pop in and out to greatly affect the narrative and decisions of the leads. Their motivations for aiding or taking advantage of Ai and Yuki are mostly unexplained. The story just moves right on to the next issue(s).

The pacing is frenetic at times. Too, a few of the scenes feel strangely misplaced. There are points of redundant plot(s) being oddly rehashed as well as multiple moments of ex machina that allow the story to jump (again) without any explanation. That works, but, at times, it takes a little effort to figure out what is happening.

These issues are products of the problems/challenges being presented before any substantive character development takes place. It is difficult to feel for the plights of the pair (and there are many) when so little is known about the characters beyond being unemployed, sick, and gay.

That aside, the ending of the movie is enjoyable. While, perhaps, it comes most expected, the run-up and resolution to the story is satisfying. The cinematography, in general, and again especially during the finale is well done. The editing of the scenes, sound quality, subtitles, and camera work are well-above average for an independent film on a budget.

The music is hit or miss. There is a lovely tune at the end of the movie. And some nice Japanese music sprinkled throughout. But most of the scoring does not gel particularly well in the film. The soundtrack never gets in the way due to excellent editing, but it adds little to moments of tension or joy in the film. A motif used with a focused narrative purpose would have been more memorable than a (mostly) mishmash of notes in several scenes.

Overall, Matcha & Vanilla is like its story, “a little bitter and a little sweet.” The film shows passion for the serious subjects presented. There is a lot of solid production value and acting for an independent flick. No doubt, the story gives any viewer much to think about in terms of equality not only in Japan but also in the world.

Although it bites off a bit more than it can successfully chew at points, Matcha & Vanilla is a highly recommended watch for any socially conscious person who is a fan of quality independent films. Well done!


Qyoko Kudo as Ai Sato
Tomoko Hayakawa as Yuki Tanaka
Yukiko Ito as Doctor
Kazuya Moriyama as Building Manager
Asuka Goto as Noh Performer/Keiko
Adam J. Yeend as Matt O’Connor
Felicity Tillack as Journalist
Keith Lane as himself (voice)
Elan Rie as Ann
Kouichi Okamura as himself
Kane as Model
Syo Kubota as Homeless Man
Robyn Loau as Building Manager’s Wife (voice)

Title: Matcha & Vanilla
Genre: Drama, Lesbian, Human Rights
Year: 2021
Languages: Japanese and English
Subtitles: English, Japanese (for hearing impaired)
Country of Origin: Japan
Running time: 84 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1
Budget: ¥1,600,000
This is the Director’s FIRST FEATURE FILM
Production Companies: Hamish Downie Films, Visceral Psyche Films, GOL Studios
Paul Leeming/Visceral
Psyche Films

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Originally published at on December 12, 2021.



Craig Hoffman

Craig is a #writer, #editor, #betareader & #blogger. 2000+ #blog posts & seven #ebooks including #shortstories “The Tempo of Tempura” and “Carl Crapper.”