“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” by Justin Lin is a film that allows viewers to attain a heightened level of understanding of the concept of belonging. It extensively explores the notions of separation, connection, displacement and acceptance throughout varying contexts to demonstrate that belonging carries different meaning to individuals. From the beginning it is evident to the audience that the main character, Sean, is no stranger to displacement as his mother states “This is our third town in two years” implying that they regularly change their location of residency.
Her tone suggests that their continuous displacement is undesirable as it increases the difficulty associated with establishing connections with people and places. Sean, who is American, is then forced to move to Tokyo after repeated law infringements for street racing. A montage is shown of him travelling through the city and attending school where he is highlighted as being a single, lone, confused westerner among thousands of Japanese people living their daily lives.
This montage is a visual technique which communicates the main character’s feeling of disconnection by depicting him and his actions differently to the rest of his social surrounding. Sean soon establishes a connection with the young street racing community of Tokyo which develops from a common interest in cars. This connection allows room for acceptance by his peers, however their full acceptance of him is still hindered by his many other differences.
These remaining obvious differences, explored through the contexts of race, language, values and environment, lead to him being named “gaijin”, the Japanese word for ‘outsider’ by some within the street racing community.
To those that befriend Sean, their acceptance is derived from his connection in the context of an interest in cars. To those that label him as an outsider, they believe he shares no connection with them as he is from a different race, country and culture.
This effectively conveys the idea that the concept of belonging carries different meaning to individuals. Later in the story Sean gets to know an important female character, Neala, who appears have a well established identity within the street racing community of Tokyo and he is told that she was once also called a gaijin. Sean then says “I thought you were born here? ” and she replies “Outsider can mean many different things”.
While she appears to have a place in society, other contextual differences not evident in the film, cause her to feel separated; however Sean’s perception of belonging creates an image of her feeling connected with her social surroundings. Through the exploration of different components within the concept of belonging such as difference, connection, displacement and acceptance, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is an excellent text in allowing viewers to develop a heightened understanding of the concept of belonging.