From Up on Poppy Hill


Latest Japanese animation from Hayao Miyazaki Discuss this article

© ITP Images

Most fans of Hayao Miyazaki think of his company, Studio Ghibli, as a peddler of the fantastic – from the earthshaking forest sprite of My Neighbor Totoro (1988) to the porcine transformations in Spirited Away (2001). But From Up on Poppy Hill shows a different side of the Japanese animation house, one that finds equal wonder in comparatively mundane affairs. The only spirit here is the collective memory that lives in the Latin Quarter, a dusty clubhouse threatened with demolition in the run-up to the 1964 Summer Olympics.

Crossbreeding Ozu with John Sayles’s Lone Star, Ghibli’s latest mines the beauty in the daily routines of quasi-orphaned high schooler Umi (Bolger), who runs the family boarding house while her widowed mother is off in America. Her father was killed in the Korean War and every day she raises signal flags to wish sailors a safe voyage, protecting the future by commemorating the past. But history is also a minefield, as Umi learns when scrambled birth records cast an incestuous shadow on her romance with fellow student Shun (Yelchin).

Given Miyazaki’s nostalgic bent, a soft landing is guaranteed. But as with John Ford, whose beloved folk song ‘Red River Valley’ makes a cameo, a longing for yesteryear is not a blank cheque. Our collective backstory defines us, for good and for ill; to know it is to know ourselves.

By Sam Adams
Time Out Doha,

From Up on Poppy Hill

  • Released: Thu, 28 Mar
  • Classification: PG
  • Language: English,Japanese
  • Director: Goro Miyazaki
  • Stars: Sarah Bolger, Chris Noth, Anton Yelchin

Add your review/feedback

Subscribe to weekender newsletter



Explore by

Our favourite features