I finally watched HIDAMARI NO KANOJO (The Girl in the Sunny Place) in full. I first watched this last month on a flight back from Singapore but because I chose to take a nap first, I lost a precious hour and had to fast-forward the film before we landed. I didn’t know what happened in between although I have read spoilers. Off to Internet shopping I went and voila, DVD arrived today.
So if you haven’t watched the film and wouldn’t want to be spoiled, this post stops here.
Not that I do recaps or reviews decently anyway. But just the same… spoilers ahead.
It starts with a Matsumoto Jun who looks years younger than his 31 years old (he was 30 when he filmed this). His name is Kosuke Okuda, a bumbling, kind, somewhat of a pushover salesman. He is single and the only one who gets to share his bed is his cheeky younger brother Shota.
“I’m not the one wasting my life away playing video games,” Shota tells him. [Um, Shota, tell that to Nino too, you know your oniisan’s real-life bandmate, who is a game otaku. P.S. Speaking of Nino, the actress who plays Jun’s mother here was Nino’s older sister in STAND UP.]
Kosuke is also so awkward that he doesn’t even know how to ask girls out until they are a few steps from marriage.
“It takes a miracle to find that special someone… You’ve got a long way.”
Then he suddenly meets his high school classmate Watarai Mao during a client call. Mao was an oddball and he was her reluctant hero back then. But the Mao now is an elegant, pretty lady while Kosuke is… well, still Kosuke.
“There’s no point in being with someone unless you truly care for them,” says Mao’s coworker, Sindo-san, who Kosuke thought had something going on with her.
The awkward man-boy becomes even more awkward as he gets another chance at reconnecting with Mao.
“There is no coincidence.”
Cue in Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice as we take a trip back to Enoshima during Kosuke and Mao’s date and we soon realize this place ain’t a mere coincidence either. It was here where Kosuke saved a cat when he was a young boy. The scar on his right hand is proof of that fateful encounter from years back.
He tells Mao about how he fell in love with the “part-Persian blue with velvety greyish fur” but it soon ran away from him.
Or maybe not.
Now, Mao is 25 years old. It’s been 12 years since. And she suddenly finds herself confronting her reality.
In what seems to be a spur of the moment, she tells her parents that she and Kosuke are getting married and when they disapprove, she convinces him to elope instead. They move to their new apartment with a precocious little kid named Shu as their neighbor and buys an aquarium with fishes named after members of the Beach Boys, “best pop band ever” [a reference that made me so amused because the male lead star here is a member of a Japanese pop group, the best in my book, also with five members]: Mike, Al, Dennis, Carl and Brian.
Mao suddenly wants to celebrate Christmas and travel to New York. During one of their trips to a bookstore, Kosuke starts practicing his English.
“A cat has nine lives.”
He muses that a cat is stubborn and implacable by nature, totally oblivious to Mao. Well, what did we expect, Kosuke is blur.
One day, Brian disappears from the aquarium. Then Mao starts showing alarming signs of illness like beyond-your-normal-hairfall that prompts Kosuke to take her to the hospital. But she was fine except she was becoming weaker as days went by. Until she saves Shu from a near-fall. She becomes even weaker.
She goes back to Enoshima, to that mysterious shabby house with an old lady surrounded by cats.
“The time is almost near…”
And we hear the truth about Mao.
The following morning, she makes Kosuke a heavy breakfast and goes out to get the newspaper for him. Kosuke sits there forlorn and thoughtful until something hits him and he goes running out of the house. Mao is nowhere. He calls her parents and goes to her office but no one remembers her or even knows she existed. Worse, they think he’s a scammer or crazy.
He goes to the shabby house and talks to the old cat lady.
And he hears the truth.
So Kosuke goes back to where he
first met saved Mao, the part-Persian cat by the sea. Surprisingly… not, Mao is sitting there by the rocks. And his first words to her were: “Ne, you ate Brian!” [Poor Brian.]
Then we see flashbacks of them in middle school and their short life together as a married couple.
“I feel like the circle will close.”
They return to the school playground where they shared dreams and first kissed.
“In my life, I know I will find you. I’ve got eight chances… Until now, let’s keep on living wherever because then one day we just may create a new circle.”
And just like what old cat lady said, everyone forgot.
Life went on as if nothing happened.
Kosuke goes to that client call but there’s no Mao. His female colleague is engaged to be married while his senpai is still looking for love.
“Still waiting for a miracle?”, female colleague asks him.
He sits there alone at the bar when Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice starts to play. And for some reason, his finger starts tapping and he starts crying.
Then it’s spring.
He bumps into an old couple, they’re Mao’s foster parents, but they don’t recognize one another. No one remembers although there is a flash of something in the old man’s eyes. Kosuke helps them pick up their groceries that he sent flying on the ground. The wife sheepishly says they went shopping for a stray cat they found. The couple says goodbye and goes their way with the wife chiding her husband for buying a lot.
“Will she like it?” he wonders.
Kosuke walks with his bicycle and stops to admire the Cherry blossoms when a grey cat comes bounding to him. But just as he picks it up, it runs away… to the arms of a girl.
“Do you like cats?”, she asks.
“Very,” he replies.
Wouldn’t it be nice…
HIDAMARI NO KANOJO is just so beautiful, so heartbreaking, so magical. [I cleaned my tear ducts by the way.]
I love this film. I love the cinematography and the soundtrack (I love Tatsuro Yamashita’s Kimi to Hikari Eno Requiem). I love how Jun once more takes on a role that’s quite familiar yet different and makes us forget we are watching Arashi’s resident diva. I love Juri-chan, she’s the perfect choice for the role with her curious eyes and her reserved yet affectionate nature. I love cats.
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