K-drama: my latest guilty pleasure

Hello, it’s been a while. There’s a very good reason for that: in February I started a full-time job. For the last five months I have been putting in forty-two and a half hours a week at a solicitors’ firm and earning an honest living (of sorts). That’s not to say I’ve had no time at all to blog. I just preferred to spend my drastically reduced leisure time variously relaxing with my good friend Netflix or numbing the trauma of becoming a “real adult” with copious volumes of alcohol. ’90s kids get it.

In any case, the other reason for my absence is that a new addiction has taken hold of me: Korean language TV dramas, a.k.a. “K-drama”. And addicting they are. Since I decided, in a fit of mixed boredom and curiosity, a little less than a year ago, to start watching something called Moorim School on Netflix about a K-pop idol who goes to a secret martial arts school, I’ve finished nine K-drama series and am set to soon finish my tenth. My after-work evenings, then, for the last five months, have mostly been spent curled up on my bed with Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo or What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? on my laptop.

I don’t know if watching K-drama is supposed to be a guilty pleasure or not. That’s coming from someone who has more guilty pleasures than is entirely decent. It seems like it should be–it’s lots of maudlin, tropey romance and not much else. I just don’t know if K-drama is sufficiently prominent on the radar of even the average pop culture savvy Western Millennial to warrant any embarrassment over watching it. Although, with the increased, not entirely favourable awareness of K-pop and in particular a certain K-pop idol group with a three-letter acronym for a name, K-drama’s reputation may be about to depreciate by association.

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I’m Not A Robot

No matter. Guilty pleasures are guilty pleasures for a reason. It’s not inaccurate to compare the guilty pleasure of K-drama to the guilty pleasure taken in watching trashy Hollywood chick flicks. The two genres are cut from the same stylistic cloth. There’s a fairytale, fantastical element in both that takes you out of the mundanity of ordinary life and transports you into a live-action fairytale. Not magic and witches (although K-drama is more comfortable with putting fantasy elements in love stories than Hollywood is), but not entirely realistic and over-dramatised love stories worthy of the screen. It’s trashy, sure, and most of it deserves the derision the Hollywood chick flick genre gets, but the best K-drama is well worth the 16-25 hours you’ll spend glued to your laptop screen.

Of the series I’ve watched, I’m Not A Robot and What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? fall into the trashier category—although I’ve been trying to watch better-rated series, and both of these are nonetheless worth the binge. I’m Not A Robot is about a reclusive, socially awkward young corporate director with a severe allergy to human contact, who falls in love with his “female” robot assistant (who is actually a real woman pretending to be a robot to save the blushes of the robot’s creator over the actual robot’s faultiness).

This one is a good example of K-drama’s willingness to entertain weirder, unrealistic story concepts that require you to suspend a lot of disbelief for the story to take you with it. It’s all part of the charm and appeal of K-drama. It’s all part of what makes K-drama the addicting, heartstring-tugging escapism it is. And as I said, a lot of K-drama, unlike its Hollywood stylistic cousin, traverses into actual fantasy. W is about the daughter of a comic book artist who travels into the world of her father’s comics and falls in love with the main character (who is being hunted down by a mysterious, faceless serial killer).

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Reply 1997

That said, my favourite K-drama, Hello! My Twenties (or Age of Youth) is perhaps the realest, least fairytale of the series I’ve watched. It sports all the usual stylistic and aesthetic trappings of K-drama (romance, comedy, coming-of-age themes featuring unreasonably attractive Korean youths), but unlike a lot of K-drama, it doesn’t shy away from grittier, more “real-life” themes. It’s less a fairytale than a K-dramatisation of the lives of real people, with their real problems and concerns. Unlike most K-drama, or even Hollywood, it isn’t afraid to confront the reality that a lot of people don’t get happy endings. Hello! My Twenties is a K-drama that wants to be something more than entertaining but ephemeral fluff—a K-drama that has something to say and lessons to teach, which makes it the best that K-drama can be.

K-drama recommendations:

Hello! My Twenties — the loves and lives of five very different young women in a share house in Seoul.

Reply 1997 — follows the lives of Korean high school students in 1997, set against the backdrop of the advent of the K-pop craze

Reply 1994 — follows the lives of the young residents of a boarding house in Seoul as they fall in love, adjust to a new environment and grow into adults.

Uncontrollably Fond — love story between two separated childhood lovers, now reunited as adults, one a wildly famous K-pop idol, the other a struggling documentary journalist.

My First First Love — the quintessential K-drama. College students, new friends, new love.

Pinocchio — a young boy is adopted by a rural family after unscrupulous journalists destroy his own family. Years later, he becomes an intern at a television studio to vindicate his family.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo — coming-of-age story about young athletes at a sports university, featuring weightlifting “fairy” Kim Bok-joo, who looks far too slight and delicate to lift anything heavier than a shopping bag, but, hey, it’s K-drama.

I’m Not A Robot — top corporate director with severe allergy to human touch obtains a state-of-the-art robot assistant which looks suspiciously like a sexbot. Little does he know his actual robot malfunctioned and the creator’s ex-girlfriend has been posing as his robot assistant the whole time.

W: Two Worlds — love story between a comic book character and the daughter of the comic book’s creator, with serial killers.

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? — an egotistic, socially awkward young corporate CEO tries to stop his indispensable (and attractive) secretary (who resents him) from quitting, ends up falling in love with her.

I’ve been watching: Sierra Burgess is a Loser

I have a secret. Chick flicks are my guilty pleasure. That’s not something a heterosexual male would be advised to admit, for fear of his heterosexual maleness being called into question, but there you go. The Parent Trap is one of my all-time favourite films. I absolutely love The Princess Diaries. One of my favourite TV shows at the moment is Skam, which, while neither a flick nor necessarily for chicks, because of its themes it tends to appeal much more to a young female audience.

So when Netflix periodically releases new teenage rom-coms about boys and girls in love, you can be sure that I’m right there lapping it up. The Christmas PrinceThe Kissing Booth and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before have been some of the recent offerings in that vein. But my favourite so far has been Sierra Burgess is a Loser, which stars everyone’s favourite teenage martyr, Barb from Stranger Things (i.e. Shannon Purser).

Sierra Burgess is a Loser is about a cool, hot football player who falls in love with a not-hot and unpopular dork because he thinks she’s a hot, popular cheerleader, the hot, popular cheerleader having given the football player the dork’s number instead of hers.

Put like that, it’s not a film that strays very far from teenage rom-com tropes. You’re not going to see anything original or novel or challenging. No one’s going to remember Sierra Burgess is a Loser as a timeless classic of its genre. But, to my mind, it doesn’t have to be. It’s just a nice, heartwarming, well-written film, and that should be enough. It has an engaging and ingenious plot. It has wonderful, sympathetic characters — even if Veronica, pre-character development, comes across as the lazy caricature of a teen rom-com “mean girl”. Sierra Burgess is one of the most affection-grabbing female leads of the genre, played superbly by Shannon Purse. And it speaks to its young audience, exploring honestly the anxieties surrounding dating and social inclusion and appearance that so many teenagers face.


I think my favourite thing about this film was not the unlikely love affair between Sierra and Jamey, but the equally unlikely super-cute friendship between Sierra and Veronica that flowers over the course of the film. Two totally different women, from despising one another initially, through their arrangement of mutual convenience come to develop a close and positively adorable friendship. The scenes of the two hanging out in Sierra’ bedroom, or sharing their glee after successfully tricking Jamey over a video call, are some of the best in the movie. It’s heartwarming stuff that won’t fail to bring a smile to your face. And through her friendship with Sierra, Veronica gets character development in leaps and bounds, transitioning from the resented, pantomime mean girl she was at the beginning of the film to a three-dimensional figure of sympathy and affection by the end of it.

But we have to talk about some of the flak this film’s been getting, because it hasn’t been received without controversy. The usual suspects have slammed Sierra Burgess as a “problematic” character who engages in catfishing, cyber bullying and insensitivity towards deaf people (in the sense of pretending to be one). Yes, she is all that, and none of that is okay. Catfishing ain’t okay. Cyber bullying is bad. But so what? It was a nice film. Sierra Burgess is a great character — not a perfect character, but, frankly, no character should be perfect. Why the insistence that protagonists must be the moral equivalent of Jesus Christ when, truly, no one is perfect? No one is unproblematic. Let he who is unproblematic among you cast the first stone. And aside from anything else, a wholly unproblematic, angelic protagonist would be utterly boring. No thank you.

The problematic behaviours we do see from the characters in the story are rightly called out (through other characters) as not-okay. Isn’t that enough? For me, at least, it is. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a charming, riveting story and moral tut-tutting over the main character’s behaviour shouldn’t get in the way of telling it.

I’ve been watching: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

  • There was a lot that was right with this latest rendition of Agatha Christie’s detective classic. For one, you couldn’t have assembled a better cast of talented, accomplished, beautiful actors to pull off this very illustrious cinematic adaptation. The assemblage of such names as Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman and Daisy Ridley in the same cast list is a credit to this movie in itself, and the ministry of all the talents cast succeeded in holding up what I thought was a relatively unexceptional script.
  • It was slightly surreal, at first, seeing someone who isn’t David Suchet playing Hercule Poirot. Suchet has become so intimately associated with the character of Hercule Poirot that it was always going to be a very formidable challenge for any actor who subsequently took on the role. Kenneth Branagh didn’t quite match Suchet, but he certainly gave it a damn good shot, and performed much better in the role than anyone trying to play Poirot after David Suchet could be expected to, so much so that it was easy to forget, while watching Branagh’s Poirot, that David Suchet had played the iconic version of the character, and it wasn’t long into the film that you stopped comparing Branagh to Suchet. There were definitely affectionate nods to Suchet’s Poirot in Branagh’s performance, like in the accent, the personality and the mannerisms, and Branagh’s Poirot was broadly faithful to Suchet’s interpretation of the character, but it would be unfair to say that Branagh merely aped Suchet and didn’t put his own interpetation of the character into his performance.
  • Everything was really visually well done. Sumptuousness is de rigueur for cinematic period drama these days, and in that respect, at least, this film more than delivered its due. The costumes were beautiful, the scenery was exquisite, and touches like the bustling train station in Istanbul were very evocative of the period. More than anything, the Orient Express itself was appropriately decked out, and brought to life the miniature world, isolated from the rest of 1934, in which this story takes place.
  • But the writing. The script was fairly plodding and, at times, dull, held together largely by the collective exceptional talents of the all-star cast. I won’t go as far to say that the film didn’t do the story justice, but the intrigue and pace and irresistible mystery that makes this story of Agatha Christie’s so popular was conspicuously lacking compared to other adaptations I’ve seen, especially compared to the David Suchet version. Maybe it’s just that it didn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, and done better, the point being that for a remake like this to justify its existence—and an admittedly phenomenal all-star cast doesn’t quite do it, unfortunately—it needs either to be better or different. This was neither.

I’ve been watching: Tomorrow When The War Began

  • An unlikely group of teenagers from an Australian country town go on a camping trip. It’s a blissful weekend spent immersed in the bush, disconnected from civilisation, with only each other for company. They bond, they grow closer to one another, and some of their number even find love. When they return to their hometown of Wirrawee, they find their homes abandoned and the town occupied by invading soldiers (which are heavily implied to be Chinese). After seeing the detention camps the people of the town, including their friends and family, are being kept in, and almost being captured themselves, they spend their time lying low in the abandoned town and avoiding capture. That is, until they decide to turn guerrilla and fight the invaders.
  • It’s a thrilling film with an attention-grabbing, high-concept plot. The sheer novelty of the idea of contemporary Australia, in peacetime, being invaded by Asian forces is wonderful. The scenes of the Wirrawee detention camp, flustered ordinary Australians being intimidated at gunpoint by black-booted, black-uniformed Asians, and the aerial battle the kids witness, give Australian as well as other Western viewers a very real and chilling sense of what a hostile invasion of our countries would look like. Those sequences were surreal, because a foreign occupation of the familiar scenes of Australian suburbia and Australian country towns sounds like such a surreal and far-fetched prospect. We believe it could never happen. Not here. Not to us. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to us. But maybe one day it will. And this is a chilling simulation of what it will look like if and when it does.
  • It was a good idea to tell the story through the eyes of a group of teenagers who, through fortuitous accident, happened to escape the occupation and detention of the population. The scenes of them panicking and flustering around as they return to a ghost town were some of the most suspenseful in the film. And, frankly, teenagers just make the best protagonists for these sorts of stories. Teenagers are angsty. They’re emotional. They’ve got overexcited hormones and they’re still learning what it means to be an adult, and not a child. They’re ingenuous idealists whose view of the world isn’t yet jaded by experience. They (mostly) haven’t developed the egos of adults yet. In short, a guerrilla band of hormonal Australian teenagers makes for a much more interesting story than a guerrilla band of rational, cynical and probably ego-absorbed Australian adults.
  • But the characters themselves brought a variety of dimensions to the story. It almost seems like they were chosen to be as varied and as unlikely a group of friends as possible, Robyn, the sweet, demure Catholic girl juxtaposed with Homer, the serial law-flouter who proudly sports his “Fuck the police” t-shirt. At points the characterisation was poor. Robyn, Kevin and especially Fiona felt a bit like caricatures who lacked any meaningful depth of characterisation, and Corrie was almost a complete nonentity as far as I was concerned. Fiona in particular was seemingly written as a stereotypical prissy stupid blonde, and the single attempt to add layer to her character was weak and unconvincing.
  • On the other hand, Ellie, Homer and Lee were wonderful characters, so it’s not all bad on that front, although I think I’d have liked to have become a bit more familiar with Lee, who by the end of the film was still a quiet, dark, interesting introvert, albeit one evidently with a big crush on Ellie. Ellie, of course, was the single best thing about this film. Her character was written brilliantly, and Caitlin Stasey proved herself equal to such a challenging character. The scene where Ellie vents at Chris for falling asleep on watch and turns the gun on him was utterly spellbinding.

I’ve been watching: Riverdale

  • For those who haven’t been keeping up with the newest hit show to come out of Netflix, Riverdale is a teen drama based on the characters of the Archie comic books. As far as I can tell (having not read the Archie comics), Riverdale is only very loosely based on the comics, and the characters bear only nominal relation to their comic book counterparts. Still, I think Riverdale is a fantastic show in its own right, perhaps because it uses the source material as a springboard rather than a script—you don’t have to have read the comics (as I haven’t) to love it, and the fundamentals of the characters and the setting are used to create what is practically an original and interesting story.
  • I would describe Riverdale as high school teen drama meets 1950s/grunge aesthetic meets Pretty Little Liars style murder mystery. It’s an interesting combination, but it makes for really addicting viewing. It’s a good thing Netflix is releasing the episodes week-to-week rather than all at once (as it typically does), because otherwise I’d probably have binge-watched the whole thing in one or two days.
  • The murder mystery aspect of the story—the mysterious death of Jason Blossom—is obviously the focus of the plot, and intriguing mystery it certainly is, but the show would be so much less interesting if not for the absorbing characters and the character dynamics. Riverdale has a cast of fantastically interesting characters, particularly the eminently ship-worthy main group of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Cheryl. As a teen drama, obviously the character dynamics and the relationships and possible relationships between the characters is a huge part of the show, which has already cycled through more ships than I can count, and with such engaging main characters it’s difficult not to be swept up in the character drama and shipping fever.
  • The show explores some interesting themes, albeit themes typical of teen dramas (or at least the more intelligent ones, which I’m gratified to say includes Riverdale): most notably the extent to which children reaching maturity are defined by their parents or their families and the expectations of their families. Most of the main characters—Betty, Archie, Veronica, Cheryl, Josie, even Veronica’s mother Hermione—have to deal in some way with a conflict between what they want for themselves or who they want to be, and what their elders want for them/who their elders want them to be. It’s a common teen drama trope, but it’s a good one, and Riverdale explores it through its characters well.

I’ve been watching: Psychout for Murder (1969)

  • Sometimes known by its Italian name Salvare la Faccia. This is a slightly obscure (for anglophones) Italian giallo thriller film from 1969, a representative of the sex-horror genre that was popular at the time. It stars Adrienne La Russa as Licia, a young heiress to a wealthy and socially-conscious businessman. Her lover, Mario, tricks her into spending the night at a brothel with him, and he uses pictures taken of her from the night to blackmail her father. Her father subsequently consigns Licia to an asylum to avoid scandal. When she gets out, she pretends to be crazy and proceeds to take revenge on everyone she feels has wronged her in the unfortunate business – her father, her lover, her sister and brother-in-law.
  • Most of the film follows Licia carrying out her ploys and machinations designed to destroy her victims. She manipulates, seduces and deceives them – and generally succeeds in getting her way. She’s a cunning and tenacious assailant. She’s an incredibly bewitching one, too, in the way she uses her very considerable sex appeal as another dangerous weapon in her arsenal. She’s really quite captivating to watch, and Adrienne La Russia does a great job with the role—you can tell she’s having plenty of fun playing the crazy, vengeful, sexy Licia. It certainly looks like a really fun role.
  • I was prompted to watch this because I’ve been seeing screencaps from the film on Tumblr as aesthetic images. It’s easy to see why the film would be popular among certain sections of Tumblr’s #aesthetic bloggers — all the way through it’s moody and surreal and atmospheric, and the beautiful but unhinged Licia makes for striking imagery. That’s not to say that the directing and cinematography was great — on balance the directing was fairly unremarkable, and this film wasn’t trying to be ambitious in that respect — but certain sequences are undoubtedly very moody and artistic, and La Russia really elevates the quality of every scene she’s in by her compelling performance.

I’ve been watching: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)

  • Like any good Millennial who remembers reading Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as a child, I was thrilled when I found out that Netflix were going to make the novels into a TV series. I mean, who wouldn’t be super excited if they found out that one of their favourite childhood book series was going to be made into a multi-season TV show? The 2004 film was good, but it was just one 2-hour film and it only covered the first three books. A long-form TV series (it looks like it’s going to be about three seasons, given the current rate of 4 books per season) covering the whole book series is much better.
  • I have to say, though, while I like and appreciate that a TV adaption has given the writers room to develop each of the stories, I feel slightly underwhelmed by the result. I’m not sure precisely what it is, but one thing I can identify that I didn’t like was that the mood was all wrong. It was all a bit too flippant and whimsical for a series about tragedy and misfortune. Disconcertingly, all the characters apart from the Baudelaire children themselves were written like they were in a comedy—the Baudelaires were the only characters played straight, and it produced the jarring impression that everyone was in on a mean joke on the Baudelaires.
  • I mean, I get that this kind of dark humour was part of the novels, but I feel that the tone was still taken too far in the direction of comedy, which I felt trivialised the dangers and tragedies that befell the Baudelaires. I watched the 2004 film after I watched the Netflix series, too, and I thought the film got the tone much better. It still had comedy, but it felt darker and more somber, as it should. The constant cameos of the Baudelaires’ parents, frequent reminders that the Baudelaire orphans aren’t actually orphans and that their parents are coming for them, also detracted from what was supposed to be a tone of bleakness and misery.
  • I also thought—and I’m surprised to find myself saying this—that it was almost too faithful to the novels. Usually I’m one of the bothersome people who criticise screen adaptions of books for not being faithful enough to the text, but here I think it stifled the making of artistic decisions that might have allowed the stories to translate better onto screen, ultimately at the expense of the show’s pacing and writing. Again, I feel like the film, which took more creative liberties, succeeded better in this respect, despite cramming three books into two hours.
  • All that said, I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t like the show. I did like it, on balance. I watched it all the way to the end and I’m looking forward to the next season. I guess it’s just easier to talk about the things that annoyed you than to give praise. But one thing I will definitely praise is the acting of the three Baudelaire children (well, two, since one was a baby and wasn’t really acting). Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes were as good as Violet and Klaus Baudelaire as you could have asked for, and definitely two more young stars to watch out for brought into the limelight by Netflix, along with the Stranger Things kids. Neil Patrick Harris was also very entertaining as Count Olaf, but I do think he could have been much better if the writers allowed him to pull back on the self-conscious comedy.

I’ve been watching: The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

  • What can I say? Chick flicks are my guilty pleasure. Come on, everyone loves an engaging, well-written chick flick with great characters. This film definitely meets that criteria. It follows four best friends who spend their summer in different parts of the world, and the “magic” pair of jeans they pass between them that summer which miraculously happens to fit each of them perfectly. It’s not really about the jeans—the jeans are a symbol of the girls’ strong friendship—as much as about the personal challenges each of the girls face while they’re apart and what they do to overcome those challenges. It’s a bit of a Love Actually style film that follows four different stories at once. It works really well, and the culmination of the film when the four girls are reunited is a great emotional payoff.
  • I struggled to discern a unifying theme between the four girls’ stories such to justify the prominent motif of the “travelling pants”, although I suspect the stories might have been more thematically connected in the original novel. The only thing in common between the four stories was that each of the girls faced personal challenges, and, in facing those challenges, matured in some way. When the four girls reunited they had each grown to some extent in their own way since they parted. That works, and the whole format of the film works, although in fairness each of the individual stories seem like they might have been weak on their own.
  • The strongest of the stories was easily Tibby’s, who befriends a 12-year old girl named Bailey who, it is later revealed, has leukemia. The friendship between Tibby and Bailey is quite unique and engaging, and very well-written, as is Tibby’s character development as a result of her friendship with Bailey. Each of the girls experienced meaningful and satisfying character development, although the stories other than Tibby’s were each a bit weak and clichéd, at least on their own.
  • As far as teen chick-flick films go, this is one of the better ones. It’s refreshingly well-written and intelligent for a film whose genre is such an over-saturated market. I won’t overstate its qualities, but frankly, for low-key, lighthearted Friday night viewing, it’s all you could want: engaging characters, a great script, good acting, and it definitely has its moments that will make you laugh and smile and cry.

I’ve been watching: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

  • Another Studio Ghibli anime film. This one is about Kiki, a 13-year old trainee witch who spends a year away from home in a new city, as is tradition for 13-year old witches-in-training. The film follows Kiki as she learns to support herself and live independently in a strange new place, utilising her unique talents as a young witch to start a flying delivery service. A central theme is Kiki’s own insecurity and vulnerability in being in a completely new environment, and the film follows the challenges Kiki faces both socially and economically: finding accommodation, starting and running a business, making friends, and adjusting emotionally to her new circumstances.
  • Kiki is a wonderful character, an exuberant and spirited young girl whose youthful joy and purity and passion won’t fail to warm your heart. I certainly found myself smiling the whole way through this film, just because Kiki positively radiated joy and love and warmth that I couldn’t help but smile along with her. She’s no one-note caricature though—she has her moments of melancholy, anger, sadness and insecurity, and those moments make the pure warmth she exudes at other times so much more gratifying. It’s another testament to Studio Ghibli’s ability to create fantastically engaging and sympathetic characters, one of their undoubted strengths.
  • Unlike the last Studio Ghibli film I watched, Only Yesterday, this film is a return to the storytelling style that I believe Studio Ghibli is so successful at. Because of its characters and its plot, it’s principally directed at a young audience, but at the same time the themes and dialogue are intelligent and resonate with a more grown-up audience. It has the same appeal that I’ve written about before of a film that’s ostensibly a children’s film that is capable at the same time of whetting adults’ more grown-up narrative tastes as well as bringing out the inner child in them.
  • It’s beautifully written and produced, and I think it’s a wonderful film. I chose it because of its reputation as one of Studio Ghibli’s better films (I’m basically just touring through their greatest hits at the moment), and, unlike last time, I wasn’t disappointed by any means.

I’ve been watching: Only Yesterday (1991)

  • The latest in my tour through Studio Ghibli’s anime films is Only Yesterday. It’s about Taeko, a 27-year old woman from Tokyo who spends a short holiday with her brother-in-law’s family in the countryside, in the course of which she experiences a series of reminiscences from when she was a ten-year old girl, causing her to reflect on her life and what she wants for herself. She befriends her brother-in-law’s brother, who helps her figure out how she feels and what she wants for herself.
  • I think this has been the Ghibli film I’ve liked least of the five-and-counting that I’ve watched so far. It’s not a bad film as such, it’s certainly excellently scripted and well-made in general, but it’s not really to my taste, and I can’t say I liked it. Which is weird because it’s supposed to be one of the most acclaimed of Studio Ghibli’s films.
  • Maybe it’s just that I don’t get it. Maybe I’m not old enough to get it—unlike Studio Ghibli’s typical output it’s targeted at an adult audience rather than a child audience. It deals with themes of nostalgia, wistfulness, modern alienation, insecurity—themes which I perhaps lack enough experience in life to properly be able to relate to yet. Certainly I didn’t get the ending at all because [SPOILERS] I can’t understand why anyone, especially someone of Taeko’s age, would want to give up a life in a city like Tokyo to be a farmer’s wife. It sounds perfectly dreary to me, I have to say. But then again, I’m from a big city and can’t imagine any other kind of life.
  • The parts of the film I enjoyed most were Taeko’s reminiscences of her 10-year old self, of childhood memories of growing up, puberty, childhood romance and the quaint frustrations a 10-year old experiences. Those sequences were very entertaining and 10-year old Taeko was a funny and charming child. Maybe I enjoyed those sequences most because I could actually relate to them, having once been a pubescent child myself, whereas I can’t (yet) relate to the peculiar anxieties and emotional concerns experienced by 27-year olds.