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Priscilla Ahn wrote "Fine on the Outside" in 2005. However, she never released it as it felt too personal. After the film was announced, she read the book the film is based on and strongly identified with the lead character Anna. She decided to submit "Fine on the Outside" and it was chosen by producer Yoshiaki Nishimura and Studio Ghibli as the theme song for the film. See more »
Subtle and unique, one of the Ghibli's most underrated films
I went into this movie not expecting it to quite live up to the Ghibli standard as most of the films not directed by Hayao or Isao, tend to be among their weaker ones. Yet in terms of story and subtle character writing I would easily rank this among the upper level of Ghibli's films.
The story starts off very simple yet it progresses into something very deep and as its mystery is gradually revealed it touches on concepts that are rarely captured in story telling of any medium. It is more than what it appears to be on the surface and it is far deeper than a typical plot about friendship and growing up. While those things are elements of the story, at its heart I would say that it is about the bonds that transcend generations. It is about how time can complicate relationships and simple decisions stretched out overtime can have unintended consequences. It's about discovering that the people we give so little thought to are sometimes far closer to us than we realize and are often experiencing similar hardships. It would have been easy for the story to end on an ambiguous note as so many stories like this do but thankfully the plot is fully explained and provides answers that make the story even more meaningful.
Along with its deep and unique story the characters are also subtly crafted and express emotions that are true to life. It deals with very complex feelings such as self loathing and social insecurity in a way the is very natural and rarely captured. Many of the characters are people who have trouble expressing themselves honestly and just as in real life, that behaviour is far more subtle than words can express. Anna is kind at heart but she can also be unintentionally cruel. She is polite and yet dismissive. Other characters who appear strong on the surface are in fact vulnerable but won't show it in private. The movie does a great job of showing characters from slightly different perspectives to show that they are more than simply the face they show the world. The film very believably portrays the idea that people very rarely express what they truly feel, in a way that others understand and that is often what leads to relationships breaking down.
As with most Ghibli films, the art direction here is also fantastic. The sets are beautiful and feel like real places. The tone and landscape are immersive and realistic. Its not only beautifully designed it is designed in a way that feels believable and serves a purpose.
While this isn't one of Ghibli's most awe inspiring movies, it is one of their most realistic and most profound. It takes a simple relate-able story and takes it someplace rarely explored. I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an appreciation for real subtle characters, unique coming of age stories and stories about complex relationships. I think it is a great movie for families as it is really deals with understanding the people close to us better. It has a great message for people of all ages and it is accessible enough that it can be appreciated on many different levels.
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