Friday Flicks is one of our Periodicals, which we started because of our love for Asian cinema. A new Friday Flicks will be posted every first and third Friday of the month.
Friday Flicks will be similar to other film reviews out there, except we won’t give a final grade or score. Our reviews will also have minor spoilers, but won’t reveal any major plot twists or story lines.
With that being said, let’s talk about Asian films!
This week’s Friday Flicks: Girl In The Sunny Place
Girl In The Sunny Place
Original Title: 陽だまりの彼女
(Hidamari no Kanojo)
Main Cast:Ueno Juri
- The film is based off the novel of the same name by Koshigaya Osamu.
- In 2011, the novel ranked 1st among the novels that girls wanted boys to read.
- Theme songs featured in the film include “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the The Beach Boys and “Hikari to Kimi E No Requiem” by Yamashita Tatsuro.
Here is the beginning of the end of our dreams…
Okudo Kosuke (suave Arashi pop idol Matsumoto Jun) is a young rail advertisement salesman, unlucky in love. However, during a visit to a new client, he unexpectedly encounters a long forgotten childhood friend Watarai Mao (the radiantly luminous Ueno Juri).
Finding themselves working closely together on a joint project, their past connection is soon rekindled, even after so many years apart. Recollecting memories of their first encounter and their subsequent less-than-ideal middle school days together, the two develop an increasingly strong bond in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Despite objections from Mao’s adoptive parents, the two eventually fall in love and are wed. They move in together and share a brief time in happily married bliss. However, Mao has a secret from her past that she refuses to share with Kosuke and casts a shadow over their otherwise bright future together.
With their ideal life slowly unraveling around them and their chance at ongoing happiness slipping through their fingers, will these two young lovers be able to come to grips with their past in order to come to terms with their future?
What’s up with love…?
The film opens with a seemingly random vignette that appears to have little relevance to the story unfolding. However, the importance becomes apparent after the eventual reveal that casts all the previous events into a new light. So let us be clear from the start: there is a subtle mystery underlying all the proceedings. Knowing this detail will not detract from your enjoyment of the film. It’s because even putting all of that aside, there is a simple beauty and quiet magic to this work that elevates it beyond any narrative twists and turns, however contrived.
The director leads proceedings with a sure and steady hand. The cinematographer lights the world with a whimsical luminescence that is simply sublime. The costume and set designer employ an appealing yet understated style, that brings a glossy catalog into actual life. Each must be commended for creating a world so minutely manicured, elegantly encapsulated and fully realized. It is a place you would not mind getting lost in for a few hours, and will undoubtedly find yourself sadly disappointed once you are asked to leave. Yet leave you will, as leave you must, but if you have any heart at all, I am certain you will depart with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye, and a new appreciation for the Beach Boys… Or perhaps these are simply the ramblings of a hopelessly lost romantic.
However, even if the errant charms of the world painted screen are not enough to sway you, the tale of the two leads that unfolds must surely carry you away.
While I had concerns with how Matsumoto Jun would handle the role of Okudo Kosuke, he manages to infuse his smitten salaryman with an endearing earnestness and genuine charm that supersedes the usual brashness of his Arashi persona and transforms him into a very capable and believable lead. Kitamura Takumi as the younger, middle school version of Kosuke is also convincing as the at first reluctant protector and eventual constant companion of the new girl in school.
But it is the two actresses who play Watarai Mao that simply sing. Aoi Wakana as the new girl in school with the unkempt hair and unknown past, manages to maintain a pure innocence and grace even amidst the constant bullying and ire of her peers. And with the brilliance or sheer luck of casting, it is made entirely believable that this young girl would eventually grow into the effervescently ebullient young woman encapsulated so entirely by Ueno Juri. With a luminous beauty and quiet grace
If I could fault anything, I would only suggest that the film is just a little too sweet and could have perhaps ended just a little earlier. A few minor editorial snips – particularly at the extended closing arc – might have left things a little more open ended and allowed the audience to reach their own conclusions, rather than being guided by the hand to such a saccharine end. But this is an idealized world after all. Love and life at its purest. So why not carry it to its natural conclusion?
So if you can leave your jadedness at the door and leave yourself open to hope: Wander into this world, settle into this story, mull over this mystery and simply be captured by these characters. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
What’s up with love? Is it nothing more than a chance encounter, that one can neither wait nor prepare for? A chemical imbalance in the brain that leads to temporary insanity? Does it arrive altogether unexpected, in common hours, to sweep us off our feet and take our breath away? Is it something we work towards our whole life, building up a place in our heart for just the right person? Is it love at first sight, or love after many glances? Is it something we are each destined to discover or doomed never to find at all? Does it really matter, or do we just think it does? The truth is, it is all these thing and none of them at all. There is no one definition, and perhaps that is the way it should be. We each find our own.
But if we can agree that love is meant to make us glad, perhaps we can also concede that it is also the only thing that can break our heart. So is it worth it in the end? To have loved and lost, or never to have loved at all? There is no easy answer, but this film challenges us to question: An invitation to wonder…
Watch this film…
…if you have ever wondered about love and other impossible pursuits.