GIRL IN THE SUNNY PLACE (Hidamari no Kanojo) (2013)

Genre: Romance/Drama
Director: Takahiro Miki
Cast: Jun Matsumoto, Juri Ueno, Tetsuji Tamayama, Masaki Suda, Koji Ookura, Sansei Shiomi, Midori Kiuchi
RunTime: 2 hrs
Rating: PG
Released By: GV
Official Website:

Opening Day: 20 February 2014

Synopsis: The story is set in Shonan area along the coast of Sagami Bay. This fantastic romance begins from a serendipitous reunion. A newbie salesman named Kosuke Okuda (Jun Matsumoto) happens to meet Mao Watarai (Juri Ueno), a friend from his junior high school days, through business. In spite of the fact that Mao used to be called as the “dumbest student in school” and was often bullied by the others, she has totally transformed into a beautiful and charming woman when they are reunited 10 years later. This fateful reunion makes them remind innocent feelings of their childhood and fall in love with each other immediately. It does not take long for them to decide to get married. However, Mao is keeping one big mysterious secret about her… The young couple’s love of a lifetime makes “two miracles”. One is the “miraculous reunion” which is brought by Mao’s secret. What might the other be ? When the secret is revealed, their romance comes to an unprecedented happy ending.

Movie Review:

Girl in the Sunny Place (aka Hidamari no Kanojo) is a movie adaptation of a Japanese romance novel of the same name. The novel is one of the most fast selling novels in Japan and was voted the No.1 novel women want men to read. The story centers Watarai Mao (Ueno Juri) and Okuda Kosuke (Matsumoto Jun). Kosuke first met Mao in junior high school and their relationship sprouted from there as they established a unique connection. However, due to Kousuke’s ambition and aspiration of moving out of the hometown to Tokyo, they lost touch for about 10 years till they crossed paths again at work.

Mao, a PR representative of a company, works closely together with Kousuke, a railway ad placement representative, on a PR campaign. Their feelings for each other reignited while they spent time together working on the project. As they catch up on the lost times and went back to their hometown for a date, Kousuke was then warned of Mao’s mysterious past by her foster parents. Kousuke knew only a part of Mao from the gossips he heard back in the school days but never knew the full story. Mao seemed to have suffered a form of memory loss before she was found at 13 years old and brought into the foster family. There’s a possibility that Mao may eventually forget Kousuke. Despite such challenges, both of them decided to cling on to each other and to move on from there. However, mysterious happenings continue and led Kousuke to discover a deeper secret behind Mao’s identity. Their affinity had begun way before Kousuke was aware… Where will all these ultimately lead them to?

Given that this movie was adapted from a novel, it might seem that there are many holes in the movie’s narrative. Where the novel has the capacity to have the events illustrated in great detail, the movie only has limited time to tell the story. However, the movie did the novel a good-enough justice, and in fact delivered what the novel could not do with the superb use of sight and sound. It was done remarkably well. The director made use of nice and warm lightings for most parts of the movie, giving you the warm fuzzy feelings. You’ll also probably find it Instagram-ish. The cinematic experience is definitely more dynamic than just reading off the novel. The movie also has the liberty to reorganize some sequence of events to bring out the story better.

As much as the directing style scored, both Ueno Juri and Matsumoto Jun were in one of their best forms in the movie. They breathed so much life into the characters and created an atmosphere that was dear and precious to watch. Their onscreen chemistry was unbeatable, their romance so sweet (for the most), and they genuinely cared for each other. Their interactions, down to the details of their characters, were all well delivered. Both of them really broke out of their past typecasting – Ueno Juri with whimsical characters such as Nodame in Nodame Cantabile, Matsumoto Jun with strong headed characters such as Domyoji in Hana Yori Dango. Undoubtedly, the movie was only made possible with their good acting and strong presence.

Half way through the movie, you might be able to catch from the telltale signs about Mao’s secret. But that bit of ‘predictability’ did not spoil the beauty of the movie. The mystery was still unveiled subtly, prompting us to its end. Mao and Kousuke’s serendipity is like a loop, making a full circle only to open up to a new loop. As the memories fade, disappear and return to zero, everything withdraws to black. Then it had Mao’s favourite song, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice’ playing in the background, with every word of the lyrics mean something, heart wrenching and stirring up so much emotion. Even so, the resolution is open to imagination and interpretation. Please, you have to watch all the way to the end, till the credit rolls! 

Movie Rating:

("We had a beautiful love there, what a sad beautiful tragic love affair"... Captivating love story worth recommending to others! Wouldn't it be nice if we watch this together?)

Review by Tho Shu Ling

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