A poignant but discombobulated drama
Photographs have an amazing power on our memory. We can look at a picture from our childhood and be taken back to that time. Likewise, we can glance at a photo of our children when they were younger and wonder where the time has gone.
On this planet, we’re all given a finite amount of time to experience what this incredible world has to offer but in the end, everything can come tumbling down when the grim reaper comes knocking. And those feelings of dread and despair are captured in Love Like the Falling Petals beautifully.
Netflix’s latest Japanese film is far from perfect though. It’s a definite tear-jerker and undoubtedly a poignant picture, but it’s also a film that feels overlong and with a discombobulated theme around caring for the elderly.
That’s a big problem too, especially when the central protagonist is that very person this film is trying to paint in a questionable light.
I’ll try not to give too much away going into this one as it’s best to jump in blind. However, there is some serious tonal whiplash halfway through the movie that’s worth prefacing before you go into this.
The movie’s premise centers on what looks to be a fairytale romance as Haruto Asakura falls in love with hairdresser Misaki Ariake. The pair go on dates, connect well and even help one another embrace their hopes and dreams for the future. They seem destined to be together forever.
Unfortunately, Misaki is diagnosed with a crippling illness, and her world is instantly turned upside down. What follows from here is a film that changes from a lighthearted romcom to something far more mellow, bittersweet and heartbreaking. You really have to be in the right mood for this movie and given the two distinct tones this adopts, that’s a bit of a problem.
It’s also, unfortunately, mixed in with an ill-fitting commentary about the burden of looking after the elderly and how that can affect your relationship and career. It’s a really strange message and I’m not sure if that was the filmmaker’s intention or not.
This puzzling messaging ultimately causes the film to feel conflicting to watch. Am I supposed to lament Misaki still hanging about? Am I supposed to feel pity for Takashi taking on the financial burden of the family? Or am I supposed to see Takashi as an antagonist and rally behind Misaki? None of that is portrayed all that effectively and it’s a problem that ultimately holds this back from being a stronger watch.
The middle of this movie in particular is a great example of this, as Misaki turns from a lovable protagonist to someone that’s – at times – hard to rally behind. With her diagnosis starting to speed up, Misaki becomes a recluse, hidden away behind big sunglasses and head scarves. It’s hard to really engage with her until late on in the movie, during the heart-wrenching climax.
Production-wise, Falling Petals does have some nice shots and the musical score is pretty good too. The visuals – including the recurring motif of falling petals and cherry blossoms – is nicely shown. However, there are also some rather strange CGI establishing shots that feels a little jarring.
This is supposed to represent the passing of the seasons but honestly, given how much emphasis is placed on Haruto and his photography, I’m not sure why they the filmmakers didn’t just go the route of showing this on a polaroid picture, slowly fading out to show an establishing shot of Tokyo.
If you’re in the mood for a tearjerker though, you’re bound to find it with Love Like the Falling Petals, even with all its flaws. This is a poignant story and the lead couple certainly have some good moments together that help carry this along during the slower segments.
It’s just a pity that this one comes crippled with such confused messaging, as it could have been a great film. In the end this one is likely to be regarded as fleeting as cherry blossoms in season.
Verdict - 6.5/10