From Up On Poppy Hill
Another beautiful tale from Studio Ghibli albeit below some of their previous work
This is now my fourth review of a Ghibli film and it comes at a time where a certain other animation company known as Pixar are releasing another sequel to one of their many beloved films. I’ve made the comparison between the two animation studios before so I don’t won’t to dwell too much on the subject. As it is Pixar has come under some scrutiny by many a film enthusiast for halting on bringing original content and ‘cashing in’ on sequels. Personally I don’t see the problem, it’s to be expected and when the sequels are of such high quality I don’t see a need to complain (I have yet to see Monsters University)
Taking the reins this time is Goro Miyazaki son of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. The director’s rise into film has been slow due to him not having the avid enthusiasm his father so clearly has. However he eventually directed Tales from Earthsea (2006) as well as writing the screenplay.
As usual with Ghibli the film centers on two main characters, in this case young students Umi and Shun. Set in 1963 Japan the city Yokohama prepares for the Tokyo Olympics in a society that is still rebuilding from WW2. In this time of regeneration high school students set to restore a clubhouse. Whilst Umi and Shun start to learn about each other with the past revealing some questionable facts.
Were mainly following Umi’s story who is still grieving her father’s tragic death at war all whilst her mother is away in america. Her rather shy demeanor is only opened up by Shun who is a confident and popular student. The two of them share an enthusiasm to help restore the decaying clubhouse to prevent it being knocked down.
One of the many great skills of Ghibli films is the creativity and imagination of characters that you never fail to engage with and it doesn’t fall short here. The building relationship of our two main protagonists are what drive the film forward as well as being the soul of the film. It’s worth noting that I watched a dubbed version (against choice) I have to say it was perfectly fine and although I will always prefer subtitles it’s encouraging to see the voices done correctly.
Which brings me nicely onto the voice artists, firstly we have the Irish actress Sarah Bolger who is on the rise having started out as a child actor in the rather brilliant drama In America (2002). I never find it easy to evaluate the performance of a dubbed voice mainly due to how I never feel perfectly comfortable hearing English voices in such a setting. However as I said the dubbing is of a very high standard and Bolger delivers the persona of Umi very well. I also believe the same can be said for Anton Yelchin’s voicing of Shun, again the rising (with recent roles in the Star Trek films he has arguably already risen) (nothing intended there) star convinces the audience to believe in his characters. It’s worth mentioning the ensemble of small star appearances including Christina Hendricks, the brilliantly drawn out voice of Aubrey Plaza , Jamie Lee Curtis and one I failed to spot pre-credits director Ron Howard.
Whilst we are once again shown how well Studio Ghibli can continue to create original and creative films this one doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of it’s more supreme films. However I was still very much drawn into the films world and my screening happened to be packed with children and adults of all ages who thoroughly enjoyed the film showing just how well it did to engage a wide audience.