Okuda Kousuke (Matsumoto Jun) is an ordinary salaryman who just wants to fall in love. After unsuccessful attempts at being in a relationship, he comes across a classmate from junior high, Watari Mao (Ueno Juri). While the Mao he knew from before was an awkward, weird outcast, the Mao of the present is a cheerful, attractive and confident career woman. They work on a corporate project together, and the two of them reconnect to become lovers. Just as they get married, however, Mao develops a strange illness that links her to an old secret about who she had been before she entered Kousuke’s life.
There are very many time-jumps featured in this story, and although the structure never gets confusing, there are moments when one would prefer that the movie stick to a linear timeline. Personally, I thought the build-up for the romance was a bit mild compared to most romantic comedies that stick cheesy one-liners and grand gestures right in front of one’s face. It’s not a major problem though, as the focus of the movie is Mao’s secret and how Kousuke adjusts to this as her husband. Their relationship as husband and wife is taken as a given, and is therefore not the main conflict of the story.
In terms of focus, each scene builds to the main question of what Mao’s secret is – no time is wasted, which is commendable considering this is a Japanese film and most of those progress at a glacial pace. The ending is open to interpretation, which makes the viewer confused as to what the filmmakers really wanted to get across, but the climax and its consequent catharsis were delivered adequately. Despite the questionable ending then, the movie is saved by its graceful and subtle exit.
Matsumoto Jun is a veteran of romantic comedies, so it’s a given that he delivers his adorkable role well. He is certainly a pleasure to watch when he’s playing the role of awkward Kousuke – he fits into the character seamlessly, and it’s a bonus that he’s an undeniably good-looking human being. The problem lies in his inability to deliver his crying scenes well – his ‘moment of truth’ might be ruined for viewers who might be cringing from second-hand embarrassment as Matsumoto Jun struggles to look like he’s genuinely crying. Overall though, Kousuke was not badly acted. Anyone could have done what Matsumoto achieved, although perhaps they wouldn’t have looked as effortlessly attractive as he.
Given that most of the supporting characters are only on the fringes here, there is only Ueno Juri’s acting left to assess. For the most part, her acting is flat. I understand that her character is attractive, but I do not see the charm that sets her apart from those around her, not even in Kousuke’s perspective. I also have a feeling that Ueno’s acting was deeply limited – although whether by her by her role or by her talent, I can’t tell. It was a restrained performance and not very remarkable. More convincing were the actors who played young Kousuke (Kitamura Takumi) and young Mao (Wakana Aoi). They certainly looked like they had a deeper connection than their older counterparts did.
The strength of ‘Hidamari no Kanojo’ is most definitely its visual appeal. For those who can enjoy romance movies, this movie is not a bad option if only because it’s so pretty to look at. A recurring theme of the movie is memory, and its general lighting supports the notion that the entire film is just a series of snapshots from Kousuke’s head. The muted colors bring to mind the sweetness of first love, and the excitement of rediscovering that love against the backdrop of a more vivid, edgier reality. Props to the editing team for making each scene screencap worthy – they might have taken into consideration that legions of fangirls who would be watching the movie and sharing screencaps to each other, and for that I’m happy.
‘Hidamari no Kanojo’ is not a waste of time, but it’s not a must-see either. This is one of those happy-while-I’m-watching-it films; if you’re looking for a movie with a take-home moral somewhere, this is not it. Maybe, after watching it, you’ll have a newfound fascination for the Beach Boys, but in terms of content, ‘Hidamari no Kanojo’ is extremely wanting of depth. And I’m not saying that just because I dislike the ending either.
This blog gives ‘Hidamari no Kanojo’ 3 out of 5 stars. If aesthetic value was all we judged films by, this might be considered a good movie. But because that’s not the case, we relegate the film to a ‘bored-to-death’ and ‘missing-Matsumoto-Jun’s-impossibly-handsome-face’ standard.
International Title: Girl in the Sunny Place.
Distributed by: Asmik Ace Entertainment | Toho.
Genre: Romance | Fantasy.
Starring: Matsumoto Jun | Ueno Juri | Kitamura Takumi | Wakana Aoi.
Written by: Koshigaya Osamu (2011 novel) | Mukai Kosuke.
Directed by: Miki Takahiro.
Video (c) takeruzone @ YouTube.