From Up On Poppy Hill (G)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner3/08/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

The latest film from Studio Ghibli is both charming and beautifully animated, but the story lacks dramatic impact and the characters feel a little under-developed, especially when compared to their previous films.

What's it all about?
Directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of the legendary Hiyao, who contributed to the screenplay), From Up On Poppy Hill is based on a girl's comic and set in the seaside town of Yokohama in 1963 Japan. Teenaged schoolgirl Umi (Sarah Bolger in the dubbed version, Masami Nagasawa in the subtitled version) lives in a boarding house on a hill with her grandmother (Christina Hendricks dubbed, Yuriko Ishida subbed) and raises flags every morning in memory of her father, who died in the Korean War.

With the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on the way, the authorities announce that they intend to demolish the ramshackle clubhouse at Umi's school, so she teams up with boisterous student journalist Shun (Anton Yelchin, Junichi Okada) and campaigns to save it. While working closely together, Umi and Shun fall in love, so they're understandably shocked when they discover a photograph that suggests they have the same father.

The Good
As you might expect from Studio Ghibli, the film is beautifully animated throughout, with detailed backdrops of the seaside village that look like paintings - you could comfortably frame any random image and hang it on your wall. What's most impressive is the amount of activity in the background of each frame, creating the impression of a lived-in landscape.

The story itself lacks the fantasy element that distinguishes the best Studio Ghibli films (such as Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro), to the point where it could almost have been filmed as a live action drama. As such, the plot has the sort of charming, old fashioned let's-save-the-clubhouse feel of a Children's Film Foundation drama from the 1980s.

The Bad
That said, though the story is agreeably gentle (especially considering the potential for incestuous implications), it lacks dramatic impact overall and the two plot strands never really coalesce in a satisfying manner. Similarly, the two central characters feel a little under-developed, at least compared to the protagonists of previous Ghibli films like Howl's Moving Castle or even Ponyo.

Worth seeing?
From Up On Poppy Hill is a likeable, sweet-natured and beautifully animated drama but it lacks the dramatic and emotional impact of Studio Ghibli's best work.

Film Trailer

From Up On Poppy Hill (G)
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Content updated: 17/10/2019 14:55

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