Still from Studio Ghibli’s “Up on Poppy Hill”
One thing that Goro Miyazaki’s film Up on Poppy Hill
shares with films directed by his father — especially My Neighbor Totoro
— is its ability to conjure, for me, an instant sense of longing to spend time in a place I’ve never been in, but which feels immediate, real and vital, even if also idealized and romanticized. Up on Poppy Hill
doesn’t make quite the emotional impact of a film like Totoro
, nor does it try for the wild imaginative reach of Howl’s Moving Castle
. In fact, there’s no supernatural element in the story at all — it’s a small-scale melodrama whose plot is, frankly, a half-done affair, and maybe the least interesting thing about it. But it nevertheless felt immersive — transmitting a kind of sunny melancholy, if that makes any sense.
Most of all, it makes the Yokohama of 1964 about as gorgeously appealing as a town can be. I watched the film at the IFC Children’s Film Festival this morning — thanks to my prescient wife’s attention to the upcoming screening — with our daughters, and our eldest and I agreed it made us want to visit Japan rather keenly. But of course what we were enraptured with was the landscape of someone’s memories, a place we can never otherwise visit. It stung a bit to know that, but it’s also what lent an otherwise slender film real weight.