SET IN JAPAN in the 1960s, the newest offering from animator Hayao Miyazaki's famed Studio Ghibli is a sweet, powerfully nostalgic look at the value of preserving the past in a tumultuous world. And if THAT sounds boring, there's also a love story that gets a little VC Andrews for a minute.
Umi is a high-school girl living in a port town in Japan. Boats drift past her house on a beautifully rendered bay, and each morning she raises a signal flag for her father, who was lost at sea during the Korean War.
When Umi falls for a rakish rebel named Shun, she becomes embroiled in Shun's campaign to save the school's claptrap "Latin Quarter," a sort of intellectual clubhouse slated for demolition. As she and Shun grow close, Umi learns a TERRIBLE SECRET that THREATENS TO RUIN THEIR LOVE FOREVER.
Despite the dramatic use of all-caps in the preceding paragraph, From Up on Poppy Hill is a terrifically sweet little movie—it's also fairly unremarkable, given its provenance. (English-language bonus: Gillian Anderson and Christina Hendricks provide voices.) Studio Ghibli completists will no doubt feel compelled to seek it out, but this is a minor work from an animation studio best known for knockouts like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro.