Alternating between self-consciously offbeat comedy and existential J-horror, It’s Me, It’s Me never quite satisfies in either mode. Relying on a manic energy, bits of random grotesquerie, and one very high concept, Satoshi Miki’s film assembles its elements too haphazardly for anything to cohere. While thrilling in moments, the film too often feels like it’s straining for effect, as it misjudges the apparent power of an individual image or bit of atmospheric mood-setting to serve as sufficiently wow-inducing gestures.
This effect-straining is especially evident in It’s Me, It’s Me’s introduction, as we follow cash-strapped would-be-photographer-turned-electronics-store-employee Hitoshi (Kazuya Kamenashi) around a vaguely sinister Japanese metropolis. Miki attempts to turn the quotidian world into something both menacing by, for example, employing an extreme wide-angle lens and cheesy/spooky electronic music as Hitoshi takes his tray to the trash bin at a fast food restaurant, and comic. The alleged comedy comes courtesy of Hitoshi’s co-workers, whose hypercharged antics feel like something out a silent-film yukfest.
But if both modes seem forced, they’re only there to set the stage for the film’s real interests, which become apparent once Hitoshi pulls off a small-scale identity-theft scam and, as a result, finds himself faced with not one, but two doppelgangers (both also played by Kamenashi). The exact relationship between the members of this trio is left slightly ambiguous, but their behaviors suggest varied sides of the same personality and, once they begin hanging out together, they revel in the sense of being completely understood. When many other doppelgangers begin popping up and begin taking over the city’s population, however, the pressures of too much identification become overwhelming and the various Hitoshis begin turning on each other. Eventually, the lookalikes engage in a process known as “deletion,” attempting to eliminate the others from the world and to remain the last of their kind left standing.
While It’s Me, It’s Me is clearly interested in exploring questions of personal identity, specifically the simultaneous desire to belong to a group and yet remain unique, it doesn’t necessarily have a whole lot to say about this central inquiry. After the larger group of doppelgangers is introduced, the film reverts to tricky plotting, absurdist pageantry, and plenty of atmosphere, but none of it takes us any deeper into an understanding of what it means to be human. That the film even poses this last question is admirable, but unfortunately it can only fill in the gaps posed by its haphazard inquiry with more offbeat images that are as hollow as they are occasionally striking.