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A Coming-of-Age Film, For the Ages

I recently watched From Up On Poppy Hill. I can only tell that it’s one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen all year, because this is one of the only few that show lovely cinematography and at the same time deliver a good, heartwarming story.

A lot of films this year lack a good story — not only because most of them are re-iterations of the old, but also because some try hard to tell us something we’ve never heard of before. Most of these fail to grab us — not even our hearts. Of course, only the good stories can do that. But, what makes a good story?

A good story has change. Change is fundamental in story — “If things go static, stories die” says writer and director, Andrew Stanton. It’s also because we all experience change. We’re all learning. We’re all growing.

The trailer for From Up on Poppy Hill.

I was excited when I first watched the trailer for From Up On Poppy Hill, but I never expected Studio Ghibli to make a coming-of-age movie for kids. Sure, most of the studio’s filmography have movies that seem only to be for the mature, like Grave of The Fireflies (the story of a young boy who takes care of his sister when their mother dies) or movies that liken its genre for the young, like Ponyo (A much better adaptation of The Little Mermaid). But never a film that connects the two in a story.

For that reason, I was more eager to watch the film. I missed the feature in the cinemas (I was back home when the film was showing) and the English edition of the movie isn’t available until September. It was then when I ran out of Studio Ghibli movies to watch that I decided to watch the original, Japanese version of the film. (With subtitles, of course.)

I’ve never seen a movie like this before. I find it hard to appreciate a movie with a language barrier. But as soon as I heard the film’s soundtrack as it began, I was cleared of doubt. Clearly, this movie was a culmination of the studio’s experience, put into a masterpiece that was growing into something entirely new: this coming-of-age film was Studio Ghibli’s coming-of-age.

The film contained textbook Miyazaki elements: A precocious girl, nostalgia, the ocean, and young love. Oh, and also a story that’s incredibly unique — you won’t find it anywhere else.

Although, unlike any of the studio’s other films, this movie lacks fantasy: a gripe for some that would expect that in any Miyazaki movie, but for me, I enjoyed the fact that it stuck with reality. It’s hard to find a movie nowadays that doesn’t over-exaggerate the little details. What this film actually does instead is that it emphasises these details: the moments in our life we so often take for granted are shown in the film — and it’s these things that I love that makes me smile. Especially as someone who appreciates little details as a hobby.

Moreover, the animation and the art of the film is stunning. The soundtrack — I completely adore. A mixture of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away is the make of the score. And overall, all the elements of the movie develop the story — one I won’t spoil, because it’s that good.

From Up On Poppy Hill was a change I never expected from Studio Ghibli. It’s a beautiful animation that delivered a lovely, wholesome movie that pulled heartstrings. It’s a really good story. And like all good stories, it’s all about change.