3.5 stars out of 5
The Stars: Riisa Naka, Akiyoshi Nakao, Narumi Yasuda, Masanobu Katsumura, Kanji Ishimaru
The Story: A schoolgirl named Akari (Naka, Summer Wars) has to go back in time to 1970s Japan, using her scientist mother’s secret invention, a time-travel-enabling clear liquid, to complete a special mission. Her mother, critically ill after a car accident, has asked her to find a mysterious man from her past named Kazuo Fukamachi and deliver a cryptic message.
Can she find him in a strange, foreign time; is he her mother’s old flame, perhaps even be her long-lost father; and will her mother recover once she completes the mission? These are the questions the 18-year-old has to grapple with.
The Buzz: Based on the same 1960s Yasutaka Tsutsui novel that spawned the well-received 2006 animated feature, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, this is actually not a live-action version of that film – as some may have thought – but another interpretation of the book.
Winsome rising star Naka, 21, incidentally voiced the lead character, another time-travelling schoolgirl named Makoto, in that 2006 feature.
Fans may consider this something like a Japanese version of Back to the Future, whereby the protagonist gets to meet one’s parents back when they were just teenagers, and must interfere with events without unsettling the course history in a major, potentially hazardous way.
Unlike its American counterpoint and its 2006 animated predecessor, this film is more of a straight-forward love story – if a time-travelling teen falling in love with a man of the 1970s, who would essentially 36 years older than her in the modern day – can be considered straight-forward.
This is as much a science fiction film as Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) was – meaning that is isn’t really. The sci-fi elements provide a device for the displacement of Akari, making her a fish out of water in the psychedelic 1970s, and allow for poignant remembrance of what would appear to be a simpler time.
The film primarily succeeds because of its charming love story, as Akari falls for a young man she bumps into in the past, a budding filmmaker named Ryota (Nakao). They have a superb chemistry, each shy and surprised by how their feelings grow. Knowing the she must go back to her own time, their romance is doomed from the start, yet they know they have stumbled upon the love of a lifetime.
Sometimes funny, often moving, and unusually patient and careful with its characters, this is a film that takes its time to tell a worthwhile story and won’t waste your time.