This Japanese coming of age story was recently released in the U.S. so I thought I’d check it out.
It takes a movie like From Up on Poppy Hill to allow you to lay aside all cynicism and let the waves of simple charm and endearing wash over you, leaving you ever hopeful that your next trip to the theater will be just as pleasant, and knowing full well that it probably won’t be.
Directed in a safe way, Goro Miyazaki here tells the story of teenagers Umi and Shun who alternately yearn for their respective fathers while tackling the more immediate dilemmas of both resurrecting the school clubhouse and grappling with young love. Anyone familiar with Studio Ghibli’s output over the last 25 years should find its subject matter and themes not in the least bit foreign and for that matter neither should any hesitant newcomers. Much more accessible than the elder Miyazaki’s efforts in that it contains no traces of his fantastical trappings and bold visuals, the junior’s is no less enjoyable for his precise lack of these very elements.
A simple story told in a simple way, we watch as these young adults, who mature and responsible as they may be, are dealing with wholly unfamiliar feelings that not many of us will never have to deal with ourselves. Exercising restraint and respect as best they can in a world where the rug seems to have been pulled out from under them, the film is most transformative and exhilarating as we see these characters face reality with a warm determination to see things through and dust off their shoulders to face a world they know will only get harder.
Despite a predictable end that belies the youngsters’ shared journey, the film, operating on a level where it needs not deal hard truths, nor impress anyone with anything new, is successful as a whole because it is just that, nothing new. By tackling a story so seemingly familiar, we are treated with an experience much like those we first had watching movies growing up, and just as then I feel I could watch this one over and over, with a smile every time.
From Up on Poppy Hill is in theaters now.
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