As always my trusted friends at Film4 gave me a lovely treat the other day because as I was drifting to sleep on comes this Ghibli movie! (Needless to say my eyes were suddenly wide open).
I remember watching Studio Ghibli’s 2006 “Tales From Earthsea” directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki and thinking dear Miyazaki Snr, “please don’t pass this wonderful animation studio onto your son because he clearly doesn’t share or understand your vision for a beautiful story”. I mean I thought the apple fell faaar from the tree as it was a travesty! So when Miyazaki Snr gave the green light for Miyazaki Jnr to direct this film, I certainly didn’t hold my breath.
Immediately any Ghibli fan can see this film is more serious than some of it’s predecessors. Although there’s no shortage of magic in this animation it doesn’t harbour the fantasy world that people usually associate with the work of master animator Hayao Miyazaki. There are no talking cats or fish, no flying pig-pilots, no wise cracking fires and no mythical dragons that can morph into humans (so if thats what you’re looking for – this is not for you!)
Adapted from the manga by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama, From Up On Poppy Hill is a nostalgic romantic drama set in a quiet, pensive suburb of Yokohama, Tokyo in the early 1960s.
In the days creeping up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the film focuses on young Umi , who lives, cooks and cleans at her grandmother’s home which doubles up as a guest boarding house. Each morning she raises signal flags in honour of her father, who never returned from his seafaring voyages and consequently passes away during the Korean War. Her mother is in the U.S studying so she is left to look after her younger siblings as well as attend school. Whilst at school she becomes involved in a student protest against the demolition of the beloved school clubhouse which government officials want to use as a space to reflect the impending Olympic games.
Her perfectly structured and meticulously routined life is turned upside down when she suddenly meets a boy at school named Shun, who also happens to be one of the leaders of the school clubhouse rebellion. The clubhouse is called The Latin Quarter which is a very old rundown place, filled with nothing but haunting memories of the past. Shun casually invites Umi to join them in their efforts, and slowly a special bond starts to happen between them.
Like many coming-of-age stories, this isn’t just about saving the clubhouse or even about finding love for the first time, but it uses those familiar plots as a catalyst for the audience to delve into the private details regarding the Umi and Shun’s pasts, which they begin to share with one another. We even dive into the past of their parents and see thats things are not straight forward whilst exploring the possibilities of incest and infidelity.
Satoshi Takebe’s music is the film’s biggest asset as it absolutely establishes the animated film’s intimate yet melancholic atmosphere.
The film solely focuses in the after effects that war has on people and the memories they keep. It also reflects on how change is inevitable but people are unwilling to let the past go so easily. It shows that we need a balance of old and new to make sense of things and it introduces a melancholic note that lingers behind the youthful optimism. However when that’s all said and done the film is sadly quite forgettable. It does have drama, romance, and focuses on the importance of family, but it does so in a really monotone way that fails to be absorbing or trigger any sort of emotions within me whatsoever. It doesn’t quite break your heart like “Grave of The Fireflies” which makes you think sad thoughts, and it doesn’t leave you excited you the way a Ghibli film should.
It’s definitely better than Tales from Earthsea but Goro Miyazaki still has a long way to prove himself to me, I think he still needs lessons from his father.
Enjoy the trailer
Love and Light
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa