English title: Have A Song on Your Lips
The movie strikes a similar chord with this season’s Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu as both of them feature school chorus and a bunch of students with their own struggles.
Aragaki Yui plays the role of Yuri Kashiwagi who is substituting as advisor of the school chorus club for her childhood friend Haruka (Kimura Fumino). Haruka is heavily pregnant and needs to go on maternity leave soon and Yuri seems perfect for the substitute as she’s a pianist and has musical background.
The only drawback is Yuri is unlike Haruko who’s warm, friendly and very much loved by her students. Yuri has a past which prevents her from playing the piano and so she becomes stand-offish, quiet, cold and sullen. She doesn’t talk much and finds it unnecessary for all the idle chat which she observes between Haruko and the students. Not even when one of the students, Nazuna (Yuri Tsunematsu) tries to communicate with her. When she ends up being ignored by Yuri, she practically gives up and has bad impression of her.
Things begin to get worse when Yuri decides to include boys in the chorus which previously has been an all-girls. This instantly angers the girls, especially Nazuna as she is convinced most of the boys are just attracted to Yuri instead of actually being interested in singing. She’s not wrong though. It is true the boys just want to spend more time with Yuri, seeing that she’s a pretty city woman, a rare species in their tiny island town.
What do I think of the plot and directing?
The plot is very simple. It’s basically the progress and growth of the characters who do not see eye to eye in a lot of things but begin to share common interest and aim. It’s a movie about coming to terms with yourself, accept the past, taking that one step forward and start living again. There’s not much intense conflict, more of the daily lives of these students, namely Nazuna who has a lousy estranged father and Satoru who has a mentally disabled brother. Can I just mention the letter Satoru wrote for a bit here because it deserves one? This kid knows his mentally disabled brother would never be able to take proper care of himself and it is his responsibility to do so in the future when their parents are gone. He also knows the fact that he was born just because their first child (his brother) was like this so their parents decided to have another kid. If his brother isn’t mentally disabled, then he would never have the chance to see this world. I just thought that letter was a real eye-opener, coming from a middle schooler. Finally we see how Yuri overcomes her own inner demons and not look at the world like it’s nothing worth living for.
I didn’t know this movie was directed by the same person who did Hidamari no Kanojo (one of my favorite J-movies in recent years). I wasn’t particularly impressed with Hot Road or Ao Haru Ride but Takahiro Miki is good, he knows how to capture some of the best moments of the characters and translate those into memorable cinematography. At least, Hidamari no Kanojo was a really great example. This one didn’t wow me like Hidamari but I guess he was trying something different here. More subtle, subdued and nothing dramatic. There were beautiful shots of the town and I think one of my favorites is the one where the kids were singing on the hill as Yuri stands in front of them, wind blowing, nothing beats that.
How about the cast?
The students are not well-known, at least not for me. I’ve seen some familiar faces, like Wakana Aoi (she played the younger Mao Watarai in Hidamari and also appears in Omotesando, seriously just give her more roles already!) and Kyoka Shibata (Omotesando). This is certainly the first time I’ve seen Yuri Tsunematsu and Shota Shimoda. I think they’re all quite good, they really do give this very ‘rookie’ feel, like unpolished but it works for this movie.
As for the grownups, Aragaki Yui is convincing as the distant former professional pianist, like, once she steps into the room, you can just feel this enormous “pay no attention to me, don’t talk to me” kind of aura lol. I think it’s nice that she actually plays the song ‘Tegami Haikei Juugo no Kimi’ by Angela Aki on the piano herself.
The smile at the final harbor scene was a significant sign that she has not fully, but slowly starting to be more positive about life.
Seeing a heavily pregnant Kimura Fumino really cracked me up the moment I saw her with the huge tummy but she did great despite how little screentime she had. Kenta Kiritani is here for laughs, no doubt about it. Even at the final harbor scene, I was rooting for him to confess to Yuri lol
Is this movie worth watching?
As with a lot of Japanese movies, I think this one is slightly draggy too. There were scenes which I think could’ve been cut off and shortened into a more compact version. Well, if you’re a fan of Aragaki Yui or any of the cast, or you’re fond of this type of school-club genre with some human drama, give it a try. Other than that, I don’t feel this is a must watch. I did enjoy it for what it is, could’ve been executed better, but overall quite heartwarming, especially their performance of ‘Tegami’ at the competition. I didn’t think the flashback was necessary though. Speaking of which, Tegami is still one of the best youth songs ever and I don’t care how overused it is.