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Fascinating magical fantasy with an unwanted J-Pop concert
A genre that seems only to work coming out of Japan. The magical fantasy is better known in the US thru Miyazaki's animations such as "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Sprited Away". The subject is usually ordinary people encountering wondrous happenings that have a deeper spiritual meaning. This film is a live action entry in the genre and it succeeds for the most part. American equivalents are films like "Magnolia" or "Big Fish".
In a small town dead people start to reappear just as they were right before they died minus any disfigurement that may have been a result of the circumstances of their death. A young bureaucrat is sent to investigate. By coincidence he grew up in the town and he meets his childhood friend, a woman who married his best male friend. Several families who have dead loved ones return are featured in the drama.
The actors are almost all very good and they put across the emotional turmoil caused by the reappearance of their loved ones. The movie moves forward in a deliberate yet sometimes non-linear manner. The photography is excellent and very natural. I would have given the movie 9 stars if not for something that ruined the mood for me. For such a well written and sincere film, I wonder who came up with the idea of creating a pop group for the film and centering the climax around a concert. Nothing in the film has anything to do with a concert. As soon as the concert starts the drama film turns into a concert film. One song was passable, two songs is an understandable mistake, three songs ruined it for me. The excuse for having the group in the film is flimsy at best. If you like J-Pop perhaps your opinion will be different, I just wished I could have seen a version of this film without the concert.
Excellent fantasy, heed my warning about the concert but watch it anyway.
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