From Up on Poppy Hill

Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro follows his fantasy debut Tales of Earthsea (2006) with this realist animated tale of teenage love set in a Japan gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics, a key moment in the country's embrace of modernity. Change and revolt are in the air, even in a sleepy seaside high school, where the shy but bright Umi meets Shun, an impassioned youth leader desperate to save the students' ancient clubhouse. Their growing friendship, however, could uncover a family secret that might unite them-or keep them apart. Lovingly recreating the cityscapes and styles of 1960s Japan, From Up on Poppy Hill is modeled more on the realist, Whisper of the Heart-like side of Studio Ghibli than the elder Miyazaki's fantasy pieces; Goro is here more concerned with capturing a specific period in time, and in showcasing the interpersonal dynamics of families, friends, and neighbors. Coscripted by Hayao, the film is still classic Miyazaki, featuring a young heroine both kind and resourceful. Recovering from yet honoring past events (her father's death), and looking towards a bright future (she dreams of becoming a doctor, and the independent female boarders at her home include painters, doctors, and other professionals), Umi embodies the hopes of an emerging generation, confident of what can be accomplished.

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