Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Garden of Words (2013)

Takao Akizuki doesn’t have a great home life.  His mother is either there or not, depending on her mood.  His father isn’t in the picture.  He’s basically being raised by his older brother, who will be moving out soon.  This leaves the 15-year-old to skip his morning classes, but he only does so on rainy days.

While skipping class, he goes to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, where he meets Yukari Yukino, aged 27.  They strike up a friendship.  She has problems of her own, but it’s not clear how far they go.  She seems to subsist on beer and chocolate, as she claims that’s all she can taste.

Takao is more open, telling Yukari all about himself.  He wants to be a shoemaker, which he isn’t good at and can’t really afford.  She’s rather reserved about things.  She seems interested in (or at least tolerant of) Takao.  Despite the age difference, he develops feelings for her, which she doesn’t really reciprocate.

It’s one of those interesting movies that I kept putting off.  It was only 46 minutes, but there was something about the story that didn’t quite strike me as interesting.  Even after watching it, I wouldn’t describe it as something I’d normally watch.

The story is more about an unrequited romance and a boy who’s being forced to grow up.  He meets a woman much older than him who is uncertain that she ever really grew up, herself.  The CGI is also heavily computer animated.  It almost seems real in some places. (I’ll admit that this is coming from someone who is used to Studio Ghibli.)  Despite the method, there is an attention to detail, which is appreciated.

My one complaint is that Takao seems to be the only character that seems to have much detail.  I suppose the lack of development for Yukari is deliberate.  We kind of need that for the big reveal later on.  To have such a compact story does work on a certain level.  It puts the focus on Takao and his life.  Everything else works in relation to him.  Even when he takes Yukari’s measurements, it doesn’t seem sexual.  He’s honestly interested in becoming a better shoemaker.

I didn’t find the age difference disturbing.  I suppose most teenagers have had an adult that they had a crush on.  It wasn’t until much later that we realize why it would never happen and Yukari does handle the situation with grace.  (For concerned parents and teenagers, there’s nothing objectionable about their relationship.)

It’s not perfect, but the movie is an enjoyable way to pass an hour if you have the time.  It’s exactly the kind of movie I like having on Netflix.

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