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(Yomei 1-kagetsu no hanayome) (Japan)

  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of Encore Films)

In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki

Cast: Eita Nagayama, Nana Eikura, Akira Emoto, Ryûki Nishimoto, Satomi Tezuka
RunTime: 2 hrs 9 mins
Released By: Encore Films & GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.encorefilms.com/aprilbride/

Opening Day: 8 October 2009


This melodramatic Japanese tearjerker concerns a young woman who receives the most devastating news of her life: not only has she developed breast cancer, it is quickly metastasizing throughout her body and she has only a short time to live. Aware that the news will threaten to destroy her relationship with her boyfriend if he learns of it, she unsuccessfully attempts to conceal the information from him; he finds out anyway and plans to marry the girl despite her prognosis of only a month left to live.

Movie Review:

The very idea of a devoted boyfriend marrying his cancer-stricken girlfriend just before she passes away screams Japanese weepy, and indeed that’s exactly what "April Bride" is. Of course, if there is one thing that sets this movie apart from countless other such films the land of the rising sun is well known for, it would be that this is actually based on a true story.

Told first in a TV news segment and subsequently in a 2-hour TBS documentary, "April Bride" is the story of the radiantly beautiful and unfailingly cheerful Chie Nagashima who by a fortuitous mix-up meets the pleasantly handsome Taro. Soon after the couple are happily dating, Taro decides to take the next step forward by asking to meet Chie’s family (just her father, since her mother passed away when she was 10) and on that family visit hints to Chie of marriage.

Not long after he senses her reservations, Taro discovers that Chie has been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy for the past months. Despite Chie’s subsequent attempts to avoid him, Taro insists on staying by her side and promises not to let her condition change one bit of their love for each other. Yes, even before those wedding bells ring, Taro has to live out his upcoming wedding vow- 'to love and to hold, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health'.

How Taro faithfully sticks by Chie’s hospital-bound days is recounted in great detail by director Ryuichi Hiroki. We see the couple exchange sweet-nothings, celebrate their special occasions, and finally take that final leap to matrimony- the pinnacle of their profound love for each other. All this while Taro endures countless rounds of treatment and eventually survives on painkillers to numb the pervasive pain.

Every one of these moments, whether unassuming or exceptional, are both heart-warming and heart-renching at the same time- heart-warming because of the zest for life Taro and Chie are determined to have despite Chie’s circumstance; and heart-renching because what happiness they share is always overshadowed by Chie’s impending passing. Credit goes to director Hiroki for not resorting to maudlin melodrama to milk the audience’s sympathy; instead his approach of the subject of death is unusually dignified, particularly for a film of this nature.

But Hiroki also has a habit of drawing out scenes past their welcome, such that "April Bride" does feel like an interminable affair in parts. There’s no doubt this 'lingering' approach does allow certain scenes (such as Chie’s final video message to Taro) to achieve greater emotional significance, but Hiroki’s gratuitous use of technique also considerably slows down the 129-min film especially where it could have been shorter and tighter.

The true stars of the film are indeed Nana Eikura and Eita, who play Chie and Taro respectively. Besides working their tearducts very hard, the pair give earnest, sincere performances, capturing beautifully the fears and vulnerabilities Chie and Taro would only naturally experience. Ditto for Akira Emoto and Satomi Tezuka, who play Taro’s stoic father and compassionate aunt- through their heartfelt acting, the ensemble cast pay a befitting tribute to the real-life characters they are portraying on-screen.

So too does "April Bride" honour the true-to-life story it tells- one of fortitude, of determination and of resolve to live and also to love. That fortitude, determination and resolve lies not just in Chie, but also in her partner Taro, for the undying love he displays towards her. Twice in the movie is Bette Midler’s "The Rose" played, its lyrics below:

"Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love it is a flower and you it's only seed

It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose."

and its significance could not be more true- the truest, purest and most beautiful form of love is that forged through life’s harshest winters.

Movie Rating:

(Give it some time and patience and you’ll be rewarded with a life and love-affirming story guaranteed to move you)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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