‘From Up on Poppy Hill’ looks to charm TIFF Bell Lightbox patrons
Starting an exclusive run this Friday Mar 22 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the latest animated film from Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli is the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki’s son and protégé Goro, From Up on Poppy Hill. TIFF will be screening the film in both its original Japanese with subtitles and a new dubbed version featuring and all-star voice cast. With Hayao providing the script this time around for Goro, the question remains can Goro live up to the immense and vast legacy that his father has carved out through his many years of work?
Written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
Directed by Goro Miyazaki
From Up on Poppy Hill is a story of young love and cultural renewal set in 1960s Tokyo just before the 1964 Olympics which was one of Japan’s first great forays back onto the world stage since the devastating effects of World War II. Every morning, the teenage Umi raises flags as a blessing to passing sailors, and her goodwill catches the attention of schoolmate Shun, who writes the anonymous flag-raiser a poem in the school newspaper. Joining Shun’s campaign to save the school clubhouse from being destroyed, Umi soon falls for the charming and passionate young activist. But in a country determined to replace the old with the new the clubhouse is in dire straits indeed, and suddenly Shun is shying away from Umi without telling her why. From Up on Poppy Hill’s dubbed English-language edition features the voices of Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Howard and Aubrey Plaza.
A sweet and endearing love story, From Up on Poppy Hill is a stunning example of how a classically animated 2D feature can soar with the right script and direction. The script is mindful and layered with engaging and complete characters that are not simply backing stereotypes used to fill in backstory. The student’s fight to save their clubhouse, dubbed the ‘Latin Quarter’, in the face of the school board’s wishes to modernize the buildings and erase the past, like the rest of the country wishes as well, serves to ignite the passions inside all the students, especially Umi and Shun. Umi’s household is also a bustling mini community all of its own with her grandmother running a boarding house with multiple guests, including the artist Sachiko and Doctor in training Miki, and her two younger siblings Sora and Riku that are all taken care of by Umi in the absence of her mother who is overseas in America.
The unconventional love story, that features a lifer altering twist that forces the two apart, is melodramatic but without over playing the melodrama. In a lesser film the melodrama of the situation would have been over played with big confrontations and possibly some angry acting to boot. But Poppy Hll takes a more delicate and reasoned approach to the situation, with both characters realizing the situation is not something they can alter despite all the motivation they may have to do so. Traditional values like friendship, valor and integrity become the motivators for the pair until a mad scramble at the very end that may just change everything. The film is a much more adult look at these situations and it will be interesting to see how it translates for younger children, but it should hit just right for teens and adults, especially those with an interest in this resurgent time in Japanese history.
The film looks beautiful with stunning animation and a beautiful backdrop of a rural Yokohama from where Poppy Hill, the school and Latin Quarter and Umi’s house all exist. The film also takes us to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo for a visit as well and the differences are not lost on Umi. The film keeps the tradition of Studio Ghibli’s ability to create beautiful vistas and scenery yet combine it with an excellent story that elevates the film to another level.
Destined to be among the best animated films of the year, From Up on Poppy Hill was one of the biggest box office hits in Japan when it was released there back in 2011. A heartwarming story, engaging characters and beautiful visual presentation make From Up on Poppy Hill a must see on the big screen.
For more information on the film and show times check out TIFF’s online schedule.
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