Saint Young Men 2nd Century
Michael Potts | 1/11/2019
Jesus Christ. Gautama Buddha. Roommates in modern-day Tokyo. Saint Young Men 2nd Century is nothing more and nothing less, and it’s all you need for light-hearted, wholesome fun.
Based on a comedy manga series, the film follows the pair as they go from mundane activity to mundane activity, like trying to stay awake for the year’s first sunrise, going to Akihabara to buy a rice cooker and trying a new workout regimen. Instead of a single plot, the movie is a collection of short vignettes showing Jesus (Kenichi Matsuyama) and Buddha (Shōta Sometani) going about daily life in humorous ways. The ordinary is made extraordinary with simple things eliciting genuine overreactions from the two, all whilst nearly no one seems to find them more than a little strange.
The premise is, of course, quite silly, but the film like its source material owns it completely and gleefully tails the two leads in their escapades. Much of the comedy comes from the concept itself, and liberal use is also made of references to the religious texts and traditions of Christianity and Buddhism. Saint Peter also makes an appearance over the telephone to tell a ‘scary’ story. Everything looks and feels intentionally low budget, which only serves to enhance how funny it all is.
The two leads have an easy going chemistry between them, and both play their characters as easily excited, essentially good natured, and also just a little bit clueless. Their wholly sincere performances are essential to the movie’s success. Watching them is a delight.
Some of either faith may find the use of these two religious figures distasteful, but in reality there is no serious disrespect involved and any viewer willing to accept the premise will be rewarded. The movie has nothing much to say at all about religion; at the end of the day, all it ever tries to do is make you laugh and leave the cinema with a smile on your face. If there’s anything to take away from it, it’s that sometimes we ought to take things in life a little less seriously.
There really isn’t a great deal else to say about Saint Young Men. It is modest, hilarious and good natured. But it is this simple focus which is its strength.
It never tries to be anything but a quirky, fun-filled ride. In that it succeeds completely.