Riding a critical wave since its debut at the end of last year, In This Corner of the World tells the story of young Suzu, a precocious and loving teenage girl who dreams of bigger things than the world she inhabits in Japan with her family. A serial artist and dreamer, she longs to escape her life to find her passion and become something more than what is laid out in front of her, but soon after her 18th birthday her life changes. Courted by a young soldier fighting in the war, she is soon married to him and uprooted to her new home near Hiroshima with her husband and her in-laws where she is asked to prepare food for the family each day, a far cry from what she had hoped for herself or indeed those around her.
From the opening moments of the film, we are fully and completely transported in this colourful and wondrous world that despite the heartbreaking subject matter has the power to uplift in the most beautiful of ways. Many comparisons have already been made between this film and the great work of Studio Ghibli and while it may not quite reach the dizzying heights of such illustrious company, Sunao Katabuchi’s film can certainly hold its head high on its own merits. Steeped in the most glorious renderings of watercolours, the film is a kaleidoscopic, melodic mixing of images that are stunning to see on the big screen and whether it’s the films own palette or that of Suzu’s drawings and paintings, each frame is meticulously crafted and expressed.
But for all the technical nuances and successes of the film, it’s the story that will perhaps connect with audiences even more. As you would expect with a film dealing with the sights, sounds and indeed horrors of war and the unstable nature of what it must have been like in those surroundings at such an unpredictable time but rarely have such things been told with both beauty and inspiration. There’s a delicate balance to be handled here but Katabuchi’s deftness with the material is wonderful and brings an uplifting nature to a tale steep in tragedy and loss. Indeed, most of the film is away from the “no man’s land” of battle, focusing on the lives of those who surround it with only small whispers of what is going on around then, but the devastating casualties of war are never far away as the film leads to its heart-wrenching finale that is both sad and beautiful all at once.
While it may fall just short of the brilliance of Ghibli, In This Corner of the World is its own beast and one that will certainly live in the memory one it’s over. Beautifully rendered and produced, if a little too long, it’s a stunning, colourful portrayal of both a girl’s journey to becoming a woman and how war and conflict can change lives forever.