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OMG! And I mean that. What a wonderful weeper. A tad trite with some minor manipulations and big blunders, but it was well played and when crying time came I was a willing participant. This film contains a couple firsts for me: a pen fetish as plot device, (our heroine works in a pen store where they have test units "not ready" for sale); and a mandolin recital that reaches adrenaline rushing heights, (she also plays the mandolin). The performance of the man conducting the mandolin orchestra is worth the price of admission alone.
Closed Note is beautifully shot and set. It's not unusual for movies to depict locations that promote envy in its viewers, but the lush, lush greenery embracing beautifully cut old and new Japanese architecture and landscape patterns, at times seeming to swallow them up, instills hope and a peaceful, serene mood without seeming fantastic. The second floor apartment where the girls in our film live, and lived, is reached by descending a large stone staircase which ends at the front door of the building. It's not clear how one reaches the apartment from that front door, but no matter. When loved ones leave the building, they ascend the stairs and arrive at the same level as the window to the apartment, making them seem far away and close at the same time; cries of love and farewell are given increased dramatic score.
Hope and love and dreams. Heartbreak and ambition. They're all here, given voice by the school teacher whose diary our mandolin playing pen store clerk reads. It's a little tough at times to attach yourself to the way these matters of the heart are gleaned from interactions with her 4th grade students, but Yuko Takeuchi, as the school teacher, performs with such heart-tapping sincerity (you'll see), I played along willingly. There's a little girl who can no longer attend class because she doesn't feel she has he strength in her heart to live up to the teacher's plea to all be "children of the sun" and "live like a family", illustrating it with an example of someone farting in class. "Not that I'm advocating casual farting in class, but it doesn't matter who farted." Oops. Take a deep breathe. Move on.
Although I think she could use a new hair stylist, Erika Sawajiri, as the diary reader, is as pretty and engaging as an angel; her performance is unimpeachable except for a couple boo-boos during the mandolin recital. Some of her facial expressions made me forget I was watching a movie and was instead reminiscing through found videotapes of my own true love.
Yusuke Iseya, as the emotionally unavailable, or emotionally naive, love object and artist is also good. When he comes into the pen store to try out pens, he waves them around a bit, mumbles pen-love adjectives, scribbles a bit, and returns them to the clerk without looking at her. It's obvious he means business.
Speaking of obvious, when the plot finally revealed itself completely I smacked my head and cried "Doh!" But the beauty of a good film with good performances, cinematography, and direction (performances, mostly) is staying inside the characters, not getting outside of them and thinking about things they are not thinking about. When the curtain is pulled back, we see what they see, as they see it, when they see it. Despite a few over-the-top moments, a couple inexplicable plot holes, Closed Note kept me engaged, inside its characters until the final page before the tacked on epilogue I could have done without because it kind of ruined the film. But no matter.
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