The Letters / ポプラの秋 / POPURA NO AKI (2015)
Director : Kenichi Omori
Screenwriter : Kenichi Omori, Based on the novel: The Letters by: Kazumi Yumoto
Cinematographer : Masao Nakabori
Editor : Kenichi Omori
Cast : Miyu Honda, Eri Murakawa, Tamao Nakamura, Nene Otsuka, Tomoko Fujita
Music : Shinya Kiyozuka
This is a slice of life, family drama about an eight year old girl, Chiaki (Miyu Honda), whose father recently died. She and her mom (Nene Otsuka) decide move to a remote area with poplar trees. The landlady (Tamao Nakamura) of the place that they move into is an older woman who claims she can deliver letters to the dead. Chiaki, who still very much misses her father decides to write letters to him, which she gives to the landlady.
Searching online reveals a previous drama (aka dorama) that was also based on the novel. Having never watched it, I can’t comment on it but I like this film version very much. It’s sweet and touching and a loving letter to childhood. The characters are all fun to watch and there are moments of light humor in spite of the dour tone initially. Miyu Honda is predictably cute as a button and really shines as Chiaki. Her interactions with the landlady whom she calls grandmother form the heart and soul of the film.
The narrative actually switches from her eight year old self to her adult self a few times throughout the film but does so in an easy to follow manner. The adult actress, Eri Murakawa, has less to do than her child counterpart but does have a moving scene where she reads a letter from her mom written for her dad. Nene Otsuka gives a restrained performance as a mother who is trying to move on but her coldness makes Chiaki anxious. Tomoko Fujita as the fun neighbor is memorable during both stages of Chiaki’s life.
There are many beautiful scenes of the small town. There is almost no music except for a few scenes.
The pacing is good and never feels slow. Events are allowed to unfold naturally. The point at which the story ends is fine but I wanted it to go further on even if I couldn’t think of anything story-wise. It would’ve been nice for the film to show Chiaki as an adult seeing her mother in person. This is definitely a recommended watch, especially for Chiaki and the landlady. It’s charming, moving and delightful.