Youth is fun; youth is dynamic; youth is erratic. All we want to do is enjoy our youth while having a hold of it. Time keeps going on, and youth passes away. In the later stage of life, when our lives have changed, we look back at our youth as cherished memories. Sato, the protagonist of We Couldn’t Become Adults, enjoyed his early 20s. That era in his life has had a significant influence on the way he has lived so far. But, now, as he is reaching closer to 50, he is looking back to realize what kind of life he lived.
Sato – A 46-years-old Boring Adult
The opening scene of We Couldn’t Become Adults shows the empty streets of Tokyo with ‘Olympics Tokyo 2020’ banners on the streetlamps. Sato and his long-time friend Nanase are walking down the street and talking about their lives. Frustrated, Nanase pulls Sato with him in the heap of trash.
While Sato tells Nanase to get back on his senses, Nanase expresses that no one is totally sane in this world. Those who think they are, are just oblivious to reality.
The subtle expression throws Sato in thinking mode, and he starts contemplating how he’s been living his life. His entire life story flashes before his eyes as he strolls through the alleys of Tokyo, where he has cherished memories of his youth.
The memories of the love of his life and time spent with her, his ordinary friends, chatting and playing with them in the bar, his very ordinary workplace which he never left, girls he hooked up with, a woman he married and then divorced; such were the parts of Sato’s ordinary life.
Rewind: Sato’s Life
We Couldn’t Become Adults moves backward and reveals the different stages of Sato’s life. In his early 20s, Sato becomes pen pals with Kaori, and later, they both fall in love with each other. It was like the first love for both of them. They did many things together for the first time. Kaori was a free-spirited girl, unlike Sato. Sato enjoyed being with her, even though he thought she was weird at first. After being together for four years, Kaori leaves and never comes back. Sato finds it challenging to get over her and her influence on his life.
After a year, his friends force him to hook up with a bartender. He hesitantly does so, but she is soon arrested for illegal prostitution. Life goes on, and Sato keeps on working the same job that he has been doing for years until he meets a girl whom he marries. Again, he was hesitant to get married but did so. This also leads to the divorce years later. The only thing that never changed in Sato’s life is his Job.
Oblivious to Reality
After his divorce, Sato is hooking up with different girls like he had always been doing. The lives of people around him have changed a lot. They are not what they used to be. They have either made a fresh start or have excelled in what they do. Sato thinks they are so ‘Ordinary.’ Kaori used to think that many things that people do are ordinary. Like wearing a trendy, common shirt, doing a 9 to 5 job, or getting married. That’s why when Sato asked her for marriage, she denied saying that it was ordinary. Sato did many things with Kaori that were not ordinary in her view.
After their breakup, Sato could neither forget Kaori nor her concept of ‘Ordinary.’ Everything he did in life there onwards, he would try to do it ‘not ordinary.’ He stopped enjoying anything in search of ‘not ordinary.’ He didn’t have a definition of ‘Ordinary,’ yet he thought everything was ordinary. While other people were living in reality, he was living in the idea of ‘Non-Ordinary.’
‘We Couldn’t Become Adults’ Ending Explained
Many years after Kaori disappeared from Sato’s life, he receives a friend request from her on Facebook. He is shocked to see her after so long and gets even more surprised when he goes through her profile. Kaori was married and had kids. The same person who called marriage ordinary has happily done that. This is when he realizes that he has been doing something wrong with his life. He had believed too much in what she said about him. She said that he was excited and should write a novel, but he never found himself interesting, which frustrated him.
Kaori had said to him, “It’s not where you go but who you go with.” The ‘Who’ in Sato’s life was always Kaori; he couldn’t go anywhere in life without her. His life stopped. He couldn’t grow. After living his life as a dream that had long vanished, he realized that even though he grew with age, he always lived like the erratic young boy who didn’t care about anything ‘Ordinary’; his life was ‘Ordinary.’ He couldn’t become an adult.
We Couldn’t Become Adults is a 2021 Romantic Drama film directed by Yoshihiro Mori. It is streaming on Netflix.