Hanamizuki is a personal favourite of mine amongst all the films that I have seen at this year’s Japanese Film Festival. It is perhaps not as accomplished in various aspects as a few of the others, but it has managed to touch me and tug at my heartstrings in a way that no other films have done.
Based on the lyrics of a moving love song by Yo Hitoto (played in full at the end of the film), this story about 2 young lovers is set in Hokkaido. Sae is a college girl who falls in a love with Kohei, a handsome young fisherman. The relationship is strong until Sae decides to move to Tokyo to fulfil her dreams. There, she meets Kitami, a talented photographer who happens to share her dreams…
Yui Aragaki gives a wonderful performance as the main character, though at times her stunning good looks actually serve as a distraction. The male lead, Toma Ikuta, is charming as the fisherman whom Sae loves. He starts off boyish but as the story goes on, he becomes a mature young man. There is much chemistry between Aragaki and Ikuta, which is key to the success of the film. The other main character is Junichi Kitami, the photographer Sae meets in Tokyo, played by Osamu Mukai who gives a likeable performance.
Hanamizuki begins with the line ‘May your love bloom for a hundred years.’ For the 2 hours that follow, viewers get to go on a journey with the film’s 2 main characters, as their relationship develops and matures, turning from pure innocent love to deep undying love. It is quite an emotional journey, consisting of both happiness and bitterness, but bittersweet never feels as good as this.
Director Nobuhiro Doi certainly knows how to draw emotions from the audience. Many scenes are memorable and incredibly touching. My favourites are all ones that involve Sae yelling across a long distance to reach the boat Kohei is on. The dialogues are well-written. One line that impresses me the most is said by Sae‘s mother: ‘Experience love and pursue it without regret’. And that, is exactly what Sae and Kohei did.
Hanamizuki is a beautiful and romantic film. It comes as no surprise that it became a box office hit upon its release in Japan earlier this year. If you have dreamed of love, found love, or been waiting for love, I would wholeheartedly recommend this film to you. I sadly suspect it will not receive a wide release in Australia, and so may I suggest for those of you who live in Sydney (Hanamizuki will only be screening in the Sydney leg of the Japanese Film Festival) to grab this opportunity to see it, hopefully with someone you love.