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This 2006 Japanese romance blew me away. It’s brilliantly acted, and the ending reduced me to tears like no film has in a long, long time. That’s about it really. Except that combined with re-watching Swing Girls last night, I’ve re-realised how much I like Japanese films. I don’t know – maybe I’m just a sop for this genre, but it’s certainly not just that. The cheesy rom-com in Western cinema is something I’ve never come even close to embracing, and uber-sentimental films rarely get my attention either (apart from the very sad Hachiko: A Dog’s Tale starring Richard Gere, but then again even that has a Japan link!). This film – and the one I watched on the preceding day, are both fundamentally well put together pieces, with perfect pacing, comic interludes, and excellent acting throughout. In the case of ただ、君を愛してる (I use the Japanese title as the Western, “Heavenly Forest”, is completely different), there is real chemistry between the two leads. It’s testament to their considerable acting talent that the charms of Meisa Kuroki as Miyuki (and wow is she hot!) are completely overshadowed. The two leads – particularly Aoi Miyazaki – are mesmerising. Don’t get me wrong – the cliches of this genre of Japanese cinema are certainly all there. But these don’t distract from the central performances, which pull through and sting when the unexpected twist in the tale comes. Added to this are all the minutiae and quirks of Japan that take me back to 2006 when I first moved there – the sliding house doors, the sitting on the floor eating gohan, the turns of phrase, the physical conversational quirks, and so much more. This was even more pronounced in Swing Girls, with its school uniforms and music room that looks extremely similar to the one in my rural high school. And there we have it – maybe it’s this double helping of sentimentality – both the sentimental nature of the story, combined with taking me back on my own sentimental journey to Japan – that hit home. Both this, and Swing Girls, are beautiful examples of the best of Japanese film making. Swing Girls is warm, heartfelt, well-paced, funny and touching. ただ、君を愛してる is a rarer beast – truly moving. Then again, it could all just be me.

 

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