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Posted by martinteller on April 10, 2015

Teenage Yu (Aoi Miyazaki) develops a crush on her classmate Yosuke (Eita).  Every afternoon he sits on the same hill, clumsily playing the same tune on his guitar, the same 4 bars over and over.  Yu slowly develops a bond with him… but he’s more interested in her older sister (Sayuri Oyamada).  17 years later, Yosuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is working in the music industry, but only in lower-rung management.  A chance meeting with Yu (Hiromi Nagasaku) stirs up old feelings… and an impulse to finally finish that old tune.

This is a quiet film where little happens in terms of plot.  Except for a couple of grand incidents, that is, and those feel a little out of place in such an understated film.  I would say they’re unnecessary, but on further reflection, perhaps they’re not.  If the movie is to have a point at all — besides being a gentle character study — then maybe the point is that sometimes it takes big events to shake certain people (most people?) out of their inertia and fear.

I would say the most interesting thing about the film is the way inaudible communication becomes a recurring motif.   And not just because the dialogue is sparse and so much is said with the eyes and body language… but also certain lines are only mouthed.  When these characters manage to express themselves, they can only do it in silence.

It’s a nice movie.  The cinematography is lovely, with muted palettes (especially in the second half, where grays dominate Yosuke’s life) and unusual framing.  The serene tone kind of weaves a spell over you and it’s easy to get sucked into these characters and the details in and around their lives.  All of the actors are quite good at delivering restrained performances.  I was especially fond of the younger Miyazaki and Eita… as is so often the case, the Japanese are particularly strong when it comes to adolescent performers.  I wonder if I just relate more to Japanese teenagers than American teenagers.

Still, there was a bit of a “well, that’s that” feeling at the end.  I just wasn’t as emotionally invested as I should have been.  I liked these characters and I liked watching them, but in a way the film’s minimalist approach works against developing their relationship for the viewer.  Rating: Very Good (81)


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