In the midst of efforts to provide a wider space for the issue of disability, there is one film that airs on Netflix that is interesting to watch. This film boldly juxtaposes issues of women, disability and sexuality: three issues that are often stigmatized and considered taboo in society. Topics that are still rare are discussed on the small screen. Critically, this Japanese film seems to be trying to raise our awareness as audiences to re-question—does being a person with a disability reduce a woman’s rights regarding sexuality, because they are considered to have certain limitations? Are women with disabilities not allowed to explore sexuality, because they have disabilities?

37 Seconds (2019) Movie Review

Film 37 Seconds (2019) tells the story of Yuma, a 23-year-old young woman with cerebal palsy. The film in Japanese is called 37 SekanzuThis highlights the intricacies of Yuma’s journey to become independent as a woman with a physical disability. Initially, the audience will be brought into Yuma’s life slowly: his daily life, his hobbies that love to draw and his profession as a comic artist assistant, his relationship with his mother. Gradually, the audience is brought to listen to the deeper and more complicated realities of Yuma’s life: how he was exploited by his best friend in his profession as a comic artist assistant and how it turned out that his mother could not fully support Yumi’s independence as a woman with a disability.

With a strong desire to be self-reliant, Yuma begins to take bold, small steps. He tries to send his comic portfolio to publishers to escape the shadow of Sayaka, his best friend. When his comic portfolio was rejected by publishers because it was deemed too similar in style to the comics he worked on with Sayaka (but published only as Sayaka’s single work), Yuma tried to draw on other genres: sexuality, adult themes. His work has yet to be accepted by publishers yet again, but Yuma gets advice that leads him to the next bold steps: Yuma is challenged to explore his own sexuality.

Yuma tried many things. Starting from online dating and land-based coffee, buying sex aids, even legal prostitution services in Japan. Yuma also gets to know Mai, a female sex worker who is used to serving men with disabilities, and Toshiya, a man who helps her a lot later. Who would have thought, finally all these explorations of sexuality opened another door for Yuma to get to know himself—to re-examine his family history, to find a father he never knew personally and to find out the fact that in fact, he has a healthy twin brother without any disabilities and conditions. cerebral palsy .

The strength of the film 37 Seconds (2019) lies in the characterization of the main character. Yuma Takada is played by an actress with a physical disability and cerebral palsy named Mei Kayama. This is certainly a plus point that really helps the audience to understand the condition of female colleagues with cerebral palsy, also an empowering aspect because both Yuma and Mei are direct representations of female characters with cerebral palsy . Throughout the film 37 Seconds (2019), the audience can also enjoy the cinematography which captures many natural moments that are simple but not rushed, moments-and- angles that share a sense of calm in the soul.

Closer to the Figure of Yuma in 37 Seconds (2019)

There are not many films that feature characters with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a condition that is categorized into physical disability, a congenital condition in which a person experiences brain development disorders since in the womb which has an impact on limited movement and posture. Yuma, the main character in this film, is a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. This condition makes him dependent on a wheelchair due to physical limitations in both legs. However, cerebral palsy cannot stop Yuma from pursuing one of his hobbies which is his profession: drawing comics.

“I was born with cerebral palsy but I have no problem drawing.”

—Yuma Takada, in 37 Seconds (2019)
Through Yuma’s figure, we can hear well how the film 37 Seconds (2019) tries to share more understanding about the issue of disability. The treatment of the people around him is one of the highlights of this film. It’s not just about Sayaka, her best friend who secretly exploits Yuma’s talents and hobbies for her own benefit—Yuma also has to face the reality that there are people who still have a perspective that isn’t friendly to people with disabilities.

Boy she is meeting from online : “Honestly, I never thought I’d be comfortable around people with disabilities.”

Yuma: “Oh, we’re just like everybody else.”

—37 Seconds (2019)
The most important conflict in 37 Seconds (2019) is the dispute between Yuma and his mother. Although his mother loves Yuma very much, Yuma feels that his mother does not fully support him to be independent. His mother always felt that Yuma needed help, needed to be picked up and accompanied, including as simple as taking a shower and changing clothes—when in fact, Yuma had long been able to do all that himself. Secretly, her mother also still has a perspective that weakens Yuma: thinks Yuma is weak, limited and vulnerable in his disability condition, so he must constantly be protected and helped. This condition is one of the conditions that most often occurs in families of people with disabilities, no matter how the family consciously or not becomes a barrier to the independence of colleagues with disabilities.

Yuma: “Leave me alone!”

Mother : “You can’t live without me!”

Yuma: “Yes, I can!”

Mother : “You can’t dress! Or take a bath!”

Yuma: “I can! You just never let me!” (Starting to take off her dress)

Mother : “Stop, that’s enough.”

Yuma: “Stop treating me like a child.”

—37 Seconds (2019)
Through the figure of Yuma, we are also invited to explore a little about the experience of a woman with a disability related to the exploration of her sexuality. In terms of physical limitations, it is undeniable that women with disabilities must have more challenges in terms of sexuality, which may frustrate them—like Yuma too, who felt she was unattractive, because of her disability. Through Yuma, we can learn that women with disabilities have the same sexual desire and desire to explore sexuality—the same and no different from everyone else. Yuma also shared his experience through the film 37 Seconds (2019), that he too wanted to be like other women, who wore make-up andbeautiful dress .

Yuma: “Mai-san. What’s it like to have sex with a disabled person? Is it different from normal people?”

Mai-san: “Hmm. Well, not really. But sometimes, they can get a little rough, as if they are angry at the world. I guess it’s stressful for them. Why do you ask?”

Yuma : “Someday, I’d really like to be with someone but every day, I doubt myself.”

Mai-san : (Smile) “Disabled or not, that’s totally up to you.”

—37 Seconds (2019)
Even so, sexuality is not the main theme of this film. Behind the involvement of sexuality issues, the film 37 Seconds (2019) actually wants to emphasize how Yuma proves that he can be independent. Independent of Sayaka, Yuma decided to stop being his assistant and started his career as a comic artist himself. Independent from his mother, Yuma proves that he can take care of himself, even to the point of doing things his mother never expected—including going to find his twin brother all the way to Thailand.

At the end of the story, Yuma realizes that his journey and all the experiences he has experienced-started from the challenge of an editor at an adult comics publisher to explore his own sexuality. He finally knew that the adult comic genre was not his genre, Yuma drew another genre—which was considered brilliant by the publisher and was the first step in his new career. Yuma’s story in 37 Seconds (2019) shares the good spirit for fellow women with physical disabilities, to continue to explore themselves and explore life, not to limit themselves because of their physical limitations.