Impossible to Imagine | A Review by Craig Hoffman

The Two Gay Geeks have a special treat for you this time. We have been given permission to run a review for a film that we covered in a press release and that our own Hamish Downie was a Producer on, Impossible to Imagine. Thank you to Craig Hoffman and his permission to re-run this review from his website,

Have a read and then go watch the film.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. As always we welcome your feedback and input on all of our published content. Than you for stopping by and spending time with us.


Impossible to Imagine
Japanese Title: 想像が出来ない (Souzou Ga Dekinai)

Review by Craig Hoffman


Impossible to Imagine is the story of a traditional, Kyoto woman who runs a failing, kimono business and the biracial entrepreneur who comes to help keep it solvent. Along the way they fall in love but his need for change clashes with her desire for the world to stay the same. In the end, can they change enough for the other?


What does it mean to be Japanese? What does it mean to follow your heart? What does it mean to struggle with one’s place in the world?

These are some of the questions explored in up and coming director (also scriptwriting credit here) Felicity Tillack’s 2019 film “Impossible to Imagine; Japanese Title: 想像が出来ない (Souzou Ga Dekinai).” (Interview about the film)

“Excellent work that accurately depicts the sensitive Japanese way of thinking.” – Hayami Yusuke, Organiser of Shinjuku World Festival

Impossible to Imagine is a romantic movie with a refreshing lightness of touch and some beautiful cinematography. The film is creatively put together through the artistic eye of scriptwriter/director Felicity Tillack and producer Hamish Downie. The film hits its marks, and that is a credit to solid direction and production and the critics agree.

“Filmed in the picturesque surrounds of the one-time Japanese capital of Kyoto, new romantic drama Impossible to Imagine is both a love letter to the stunning city and the culture found at the core of its existence as well as a heartwarming romance-filled with grace and soul.” – Eddie Ivermee, Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)

The film stars Yukiko Ito as struggling kimono shop owner, Ami Shimizu. Ito is a versatile actress who brings great depth to the role. She is particularly adept at playing the strong, tough, demands of her character. The actress’ talents carries the movie’s less experienced cast.

Hayato Arai, a business consultant, is played by newcomer William Yagi Lewis.The actor does a convincing job considering he is new to the big screen (as would be expected of an indie movie). He has a true understanding of his character’s mixed-race identity in the film.

The main stars’ on-screen chemistry is more authentic as friends than in their more romantic interactions, but they work well together as a pair, particularly early on in the story.

The limited supporting cast also does an admirable job filling out their roles. Impossible to Imagine would have benefitted from more screen time from the father, friends, and disgruntled neighbors. The (foreign) extras are a nice touch, but underutilized in the movie.

Impossible to Imagine also touches on several social issues including the problems of over-tourism in Kyoto (pre-pandemic) and foreign-Japanese relationships.

“A timely film which depicts current social issues of a rapidly-changing nation. Thought-provoking and highly entertaining!” – Michi Saki, Associate Professor, Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts

The cinematography was good, especially for an indie film. The film needs more scenes in and around beautiful Kyoto. But no doubt the logistics and budget made that problematic.

Impossible to Imagine needs a little work with lighting and sound quality, but overall it is a wonderful flick and definitely a thumbs up for people who enjoy a deeper look into Japanese culture. The film is produced by Hamish Downie, a Japan-based Australian filmmaker and producer.

Downie’s previous works include the multi-award winning short, “An American Piano” and the music video for Robyn Loau’s single “Never Let You Down.” The production level of the film opening and closing credits, and subtitles is high. That is something not often seen even in bigger budget films in Japan.

There is a clash of Japanese-paced romance script with a more Western-style movie-making style at times. That is common in many Japanese-Western cinematic fusion. It’s a difficult balance for even big budget films of this genre to strike.

The film’s montages bring fun interludes to the plot, but those diversions could have used more frenetic pacing in both music and character movements. There are a few times when the action takes place too far from the camera to achieve maximum dramatic effect.

It would have been nice to see more emphasis on closeups in the emotional moments during the apartment scenes. Still, there are some high-quality photography-tricks used in the film. That was a most pleasant surprise.

“The ancient theme of clashing cultures feels fresh in this heartfelt and nuanced approach.” – Mandy Bartok, Uncover Japan

The film comes in and out of a few of its vignettes too quickly, but that is likely again a product of limited resources. The production team does cleverly cover these pacing issues with title screens throughout the film. And it is easily forgiven.

Impossible to Imagine’s soundtrack features music from a talented group of artists. The theme song is by Jeremy Lim. Composer Hanako Ward builds the emotional ambiance of the film using a mixture of piano, violin, shamisen and koto. Australian indie rock artists, Diet, Dolphin Dog, and Made In Japan punctuate the fun, fast points, within the feature.

The soundtrack does occasionally step on the dialogue, and the music goes missing in a beautiful, blue sky and cloud-filled scene in the film, which would have been a perfect time for the soundtrack to shine. But that may be more a directorial decision rather than a composer’s compositional style choice. In the end, the film is an enjoyable cinematic-watching and listening experience.

Final Thoughts: Impossible to Imagine’s story, acting, production, and setting are excellent for this level of film-making. Highly recommended for casual and diehard fans of indie films, Japanese culture, and out-of-the-box romantic dramas with a unique heart and social conscience.

Rating: 4.25/5

Impossible to Imagine

Running time: 88 minutes
Genre: Romance/Social Commentary
Year: 2019
Language(s): Japanese and English
Subtitles: English
Country of Origin: Japan

Contacts: Felicity Tillack (director, scriptwriter)
Hamish Downie (producer)

How To Get Impossible to Imagine

Everyone apart from those in North America, Australia or Italy can now rent or buy the film via Vimeo with full English subs. For those within North America, the film is available to stream on Amazon Prime or buy on DVD. And within Australia and Italy, it should not be too much longer.

Keep up to date with the film and Felicity Tillack via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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