A foreign film for those who think cute is the highest compliment, this painfully po-faced story about an oddball hotel poses a question: If you tune a fish-out-of-water premise down to the lowest key possible, are you still left with nothing but formulaic tripe? It’s a given that the uptight visitor (Kobayashi) who arrives at the movie’s spare beach resort will find the let-it-flow attitude of the proprietor (Mitsuishi) to be irksome, and the strange, smiling geriatric (Motai) who serves shaved ice to be maddeningly inscrutable. We also know what will inevitably happen next: The longer this city dweller is around her deadpan-kooky fellow travelers, the more those nightly bouts of “twilighting”—a fancy way of saying you’re staring off into space—will seem deeply profound.
The real lesson: Just because a predictable narrative comes laden with pretty pictures and Zen quirk, that doesn’t make its platitudinous ideology any less grating. Director Naoko Ogigami may have a keen eye for placing characters in clean, uncluttered space, but her ear for dialogue (“I just spend my time waiting…for time to pass, I guess.”) suggests she’s digested a steady diet of New Age blather. Megane isn’t interested in spiritual enlightenment; it’s the cinematic equivalent of a rock-garden tchotchke sold as exotica to tourists.