Starring: Non, Megumi Han, Yoshimasa Hosoya
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Running Time: 128 mins
In This Corner Of The World is a Japanese film about the life of a young girl living in a small city on the outskirts of Hiroshima in the years leading up to 1945.
For a film that takes on a big and heavy-going part of history, I have to say I was very impressed with how sweet and touching In This Corner Of The World is. Although it’s never an emotionally exhilarating experience, it brings a very nostalgic and intimate story to light with some beautiful animation and a unique look at the years before the bombing of Hiroshima, all making for a thoroughly engrossing and affecting film.
But first, let’s just get across what doesn’t quite work about this film. It’s definitely important to know that this isn’t an account of the Hiroshima bombing itself, nor is it a heavy-going war drama on par with something like Grave Of The Fireflies. That said, the first half of this movie doesn’t quite deliver a strong enough story to make its more personal focus so enthralling.
As sweet and nostalgic as the film is, and as clever as using the historical hindsight to watch people live out their daily lives innocently in the old Hiroshima is, the plot for the first half just doesn’t really take you anywhere. It’s a pleasant and pretty account coming of age story, but it’s a little too much like a slice-of-life drama to really give you that strong emotional connection to the characters right from the beginning, meaning that the film does take quite a while to really get going.
That said, once it shifts up into a more dramatic gear, things become very impressive. Now contrasting the hardships of a war context with the life that this young girl was building for herself, the film taps into an emotion that’s rarely focused on, bringing a sombre atmosphere to what was such a sweet and pleasant story of nostalgia, by showing you what the true loss of war can be: an entire community filled with lives flourishing all over taken away.
And yet, the film remains surprisingly heartwarming even when it gets into some of the heavier-going parts of the history. Whilst there are many really sad moments that tug at your heartstrings, the determination of our main character as she negotiates an unimaginably harrowing situation is so uplifting, and brings out a brilliant beauty amidst all of the horror of war.
Which brings me to the animation. Styled in a similar fashion to many of Studio Ghibli’s best works, this film not only looks beautiful, but its animation style plays a big part in its story. Throughout the film, we learn how the young girl loves to draw, which is even more apparent against the beautiful hand-painted landscapes.
But from her love of drawing come a series of stunning sequences in which we see the Japanese navy ships, as well as aerial battles and air-raids in the skies above Hiroshima turned into delightful and colourful paintings seen from the eyes of this young girl, heightening the sense of sadness when you think about such a happy and kind-natured character having her life turned completely upside down by the war.
Finally, when it comes to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I think that this film handled itself very well. In keeping with the notion that it’s not a direct story about the event on the August 6th, 1945, the very moment itself isn’t shown explicitly, and we continue to focus on the confused and gradually beleaguered people living in the city on the outskirts of Hiroshima.
Yes, the story does still bring to light the horrors of the aftermath of the bombing, but in that it continues to show some beautifully heartwarming and uplifting moments that emerge from the terror, and in the film’s finale, it really shines with a bold and brave but utterly stunning demonstration of the strength of decent human beings in the face of the worst possible adversity.
Overall, I was very impressed by this film. Although it gets off to a very slow start, it compensates with a beautifully-executed second half, using the sweet and nostalgic nature of the first act to tug at your heartstrings when everything turns dark, and with the gorgeous animation style from start to finish, this film is a truly touching watch, which is why I’m giving In This Corner Of The World a 7.7.