But don’t be scared off. The characters do the right thing, as difficult as it is, and just as Umi and Shun honor traditional morality and cultural expectations, the film’s twists and turns honor their mature decision-making. One wonders if a film about American youth in the 1960s would follow the same trajectory, or prove half as moving as From Up on Poppy Hill, which packs a surprising, emotional wallop.

The melancholy, searching tone of From Up on Poppy Hill never becomes maudlin or saccharine. The film is instead poignant, at times challenging, and ultimately hopeful, helped not only by the expected visual elegance but by a jazz-filled soundtrack that adds yet another dimension to the outstanding end product.

Those who desire artful animation absent any talking animals, crass humor and the desperate, lowest-common denominator appeal of so much American animated fare finally have a film to seek out and cherish. From Up on Poppy Hill builds slowly, revealing its secrets in due time, and it rewards the patient viewer.

On the evidence of From Up on Poppy Hill, the Miyazaki legacy is in good hands.

CAUTIONS

  • Language/Profanity: None
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Some smoking
  • Sex/Nudity: None
  • Violence/Crime: A boy jumps from a roof into a pool, but hits bushes on the way down; a cut from shaving; a student melee, with one student shown putting another in a headlock; a ship is shown hitting a mine and exploding; a student falls through a clubhouse floor
  • Religion/Morals/Marriage: Reminiscence of young love and parental disapproval; discussion of family lineage and what makes someone a child, a parent and a family unit; discussion of the loss of a child; Umi is referred to as a goddess of good luck, as heaven-sent, a little angel; a daughter sends her absent father a visual message that means, "I pray for your safe return;" a philosophy student exclaims, "We have co-opted every gift of the gods!"

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: April 8, 2013