disappearance of his fiancée, Ritsuko, puzzles Sakutaro. He travels
to Shikoku in search of her, to a town where he experienced his first love,
Aki, a high school classmate. Things he sees after seventeen years vividly
refresh his memories of vision making him feel as though he were travelling
backward in time…
At age sixteen, Sakutaro falls for Aki, the class idol, who is cast as the
heroin in the school play of “Romeo and Juliet.” Another boy
plays Romeo but Aki calls Sakutaro Romeo. Evidently, their love is mutual.
However, her parents interfere with their romance by forbidding her to use
their phone, so she must communicate with Sakutaro via recorded cassette
messages that a little girl delivers. The young lovers enjoy the springtime
of their lives and spend a night alone together on an otherwise deserted
Then Aki learns that she is suffering from leukemia and her days are numbered.
Her dream is a tour to Ululu in Australia, the pictures taken and, for fun,
pose for a photo of their imaginary wedding. On a stormy night he secretly
spirits Aki from the hospital to the airport, but all flights
are cancelled owning to the storm. Then a lit attacks her. Though confined
to the hospital, she sends her tapes to Sakutaro, except for the last one
that is missing.
After seventeen years, Ritsuko, Sakutaro’s fiancée, visits
the photo studio in Shikoku and finds the pictures of Sakutaro and Aki in
bridal costumes. She was the little messenger girl, and now she learns how
desperately in love they were. Aki’s final tape, long missing, at
least reaches its destination…
When a relationship ends badly, more often than not, one or both partners
will still hold on to the relationship. This could come in the form of a
photo, a letter or a gift, but all signifies an element: a fragment of a
memory. This film uses this phenomenon and weaves them into a tale of tragic
love, where the death of one partner leaves the other drifting among the
living, with an endless search for the closure that never seems to materialise.
Because forgiveness is a gift often deemed too scarce to be given or received.
We see this
search for closure everywhere, among relatives of victims in airplane crashes,
in the parents of missing teenagers whose body is never found and in an
inebriated driver who killed an innocent pedestrian while drunk driving.
A constant struggle for one’s sanity. A continuous internal conflict
with one’s guilt. An endless search for redemption and deliverance.
In this film,
the male lead Sakutaro still has lingering memories of his love Aki, who
has died of leukemia. The lack of closure after Aki’s death still
haunts him despite the passage of time. They have exchanged tapes during
Aki’s illness but due to an accident, Sakutaro never received her
last recorded message. It’s this last piece of jigsaw that haunts
him till this day, despite the fact that he is going to marry his fiancée,
of this film thus lies in narrating the process of Sakutaro’s rite
of passage, from a guilt-ridden individual to one of self-discovery and
ultimately to his redemption. The insertion of a character Ritsuko who holds
a link to the past is an ingenious technique to add an additional dimension
to the plot. And when it all flows together, magic results.
This is a
film of innocent first love, joyousness of romance, pain of sickness and
separation, never-ending guilt, introspection, confession, forgiveness and
redemption. It is a film of forgetting the past and embracing the future.
It is a film
whose theme is so poignant and heart-wrenching that not watching it is simply
DVD comes in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0.
in 16 X 9 letterbox format. The mise-en-scene created to portray the 80s
is simply authentic and unforgettable. And also the use of beautiful cinematography
that includes landscapes of Australia is simply breathtaking.
Review by Patrick Tay