Movie Review: 'From Up On Poppy Hill'

It is a new animated film from Japan. It is stunning, as beautiful a hand-drawn animated feature as you are likely to see. It marks the first collaboration of a celebrated father, the Oscar-winning director of Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, and his son Goro.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And from Japan comes this creation, the new animated film "From Up on Poppy Hill." It marks the first collaboration of a celebrated father, the Oscar-winning director of "Spirited Away," and his son.

Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: "From Up on Poppy Hill" is stunning, as beautiful a hand-drawn animated feature as you are likely to see. It's a time machine dream of a not-so-distant past, a sentimental story of young love that has the great Hayao Miyazaki doing the writing and his son Goro in the director's chair.

The Miyazakis time machine takes us to the bustling Japanese city of Yokahama in 1963.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROM UP POPPY HILL")

MASAMI NAGASAWA: (as Umi) In some places, you can tell what time of year it is by which flowers are in bloom. In Yokahama, it's which boats you see passing through the harbor. We have a great view of the boats from my house on Poppy Hill.

TURAN: That's high school junior Umi, the latest in the line of resourceful young women who feature in many Hayao Miyazaki films. With her father lost at sea and her mother studying in America, Umi has to keep an eye on her two younger siblings while helping run the family boarding house and doing well in school.

Despite all this, Umi finds time each morning to mysteriously run two signal flags up the flagpole facing the harbor outside her hillside home. At school, she's attracted to a young man who is involved in rescuing an enormous old building that the boys use as a club house, for extracurricular activities like a ham radio club.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROM UP POPPY HILL")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) CGU, This is OM 4SMKK.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (As character) Thanks, OM.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) We are high school students from Japan.

TURAN: This film's overriding theme is the importance of the past, the notion that you can't move into the future without knowing and respecting it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "SUKIYAKI")

TURAN: "From Up on Poppy Hill" may be sweetness itself with a pop soundtrack including 1963's chart-topping hit "Sukiyaki." But that doesn't mean it doesn't have some serious stuff on its mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SUKIYAKI)

KYU SAKAMOTO: Uewo muite arukou, Namida ga koborenaiyouni, omoidasu haru...

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, SUKIYAKI)

SAKAMOTO: (Singing) ...hitoribocchi no yoru...

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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