Jan 3, 2018
malaisespells (All reviews)
Whew, what an emotionally impactful movie. It grabbed me and made me cry at unexpected parts... mostly out of nostalgia for simpler, more innocent times. Having the past bleed into the present was a brilliant choice in narrative technique that discreetly revealed more about the hidden bits and pieces of the protagonist as both an adult and child. Initially coming across as a little bland and, perhaps, even too reserved in current day, the protagonist surprised me with her life-long/preserved curiosity, excitement and playfulness from childhood, just by how tickled she was by some of her treasured and sillier moments of her earlier days and how fondly she regarded all of them. I loved seeing how these parts of her would occasionally seep out from beneath her usual calm, gentle, and soft-spoken adult self... This intermingling between the adult and child inside of her was like buried treasure that truly drove the narrative even more so and added to my willingness to continue watching!

The flashbacks, in particular, felt a little disparate and insubstantial at first, as if they were merely pictures in a photo album of all the "big moments" in life, seen merely through the lens of childhood wonder and speculation. Later, however, they all kind of tie in together to propel, what I consider, one of the central themes of the film -- that being how, maybe, we grow up quicker than we wish due to external pressures of adulthood. This dichotomy between childhood and adulthood is constantly shown when the protagonist is in the face of authoritative figures both at home and school. Any time she demonstrates her imagination and curiosity, both of which should be encouraged at such a young age, she's instead pressured to be more traditional or "normal" for security purposes. It's as if there's some universal language among these adults that there's only one standard way of being that has to be forced on to everybody or else there'll be the threat of exclusion. These stringent rules have been implicitly enforced on children for sure, as can be seen by how they treat others who are seemingly different. Earlier, we get these picturesque moments of how kids will be kids... and that they will play with each other and have fun regardless of how different they are from each other. Everything can be resolved by harmless and innocent teasing but that soon changes and becomes more sinister with approaching adulthood... like how the poor or even women can be made to feel like aliens and thus be excluded. With the world of adults in a completely different dimension from that of kids, Taeko has felt its effects time and time again but can't bring herself to do anything about it, so she just plays it safe and allows her to adopt these backward values. It's why she grows up with a hint of guilt and not as much satisfaction. Still, even as an adult living in somewhat of a rigid society, she allows her childhood self to drive her to embrace different ways of living, as they help her entertain thoughts on how differently her life could've panned out, if she just followed her imagination/dreams and didn't allow adulthood to interfere. Over all, what I took out of this was to keep the child in you alive (and to reconcile the seemingly different worlds of childhood and adulthood) because that's what ultimately keeps you more open to possibilities and different ways of living instead of being too rigid and exclusive in your approach to everything.

This is getting horrifically long so I'll conclude with the "art" and "enjoyment" factors since the soundtrack didn't appeal much to me (other than, of course, the main theme that was played sparingly). The art, over all, wasn't overdone but detailed in all the right ways to make the characters actually look more realistic -- especially in the way that laugh lines and eye fat were included to draw out their smiles more. I also loved the use of pastel colors to differentiate the past from the present, as it created somewhat of a hazy and nostalgic atmosphere. Finally, the landscapes were beautifully drawn and looked more like watercolor paintings in both the past and the present, but I thought that the past was particularly handled in such an intriguing way... like how it was almost blurred out and not all details were filled to create general distance and dreaminess. All right, as for enjoyment, it did drag at parts. I couldn't focus much on her present wanderings because I knew they were used to relate the story to her past... It maybe could've been better if it was made more succinct since it didn't really get as introspective or meaningful until the end... when more of the message was revealed. But I guess it's supposed to compare the present and past while also offering a look at a unique and different way of living - one with which she's unfamiliar but has come to appreciate nonetheless. The flashbacks were all compelling, intimate, and heartwarming, however, and mainly drove the film. Loved all of it, still.