This is just going to be a short thoughts on video rather than a full in-depth review, because I feel like In This Corner of the World is a film that really doesn’t need diving into. And that’s not an insult by any means.
The film is based on the manga of the same name and follows the life of Suzu, a girl from Hiroshima as she grows up in the 1930’s and struggles through life in the Second World War. I would say this is one of the best films I’ve seen about civilian life during war.
I think it manages this because it focuses on two things especially, culture and character.
By culture I mean intricate details of the film. The locations feel especially realised, despite the intentionally artistic style, they feel lived in rather than just a backdrop. This makes even more sense if you look into the depth the production went into to get the details of landscapes just right such as interviewing people that remembered the areas from childhood, aerial photography, and so on.
And there’s always something either in the foreground or background that gives a bit more context to everything. Be it the farming techniques and recipes, the fashion, the technology, and more importantly how this all has to change and adapt with the war.
This plays into how the characters fit into this, because they’re never just sitting and talking about their situation. It’s not a fast paced film by any means but there’s a constant momentum of life in the people. They’re always doing something.
And this is only helped by the portrayal of the characters themselves which are brilliant, through the directing, the writing, and superb voice acting. Every single person on-screen feels completely realised. You don’t have to know everyone’s past or their stance on things, it’s all just evident in how they act and what they say, and it’s very effective at getting you attached to these characters despite not trying to force them on you, just because they’re so well-developed.
And another thing that this film gets, and was one of the first things that stuck me was just how funny it is. You have show the good times to fully translate the bad times, and there are many moments of human comedy, either from Suzu’s drawings, her absentmindedness, or just odd lines when the families are having dinner, and despite the more shocking or gripping moments that come later in the film these are the parts that have stuck with me more after watching.
That being said it’s also a sad film. A very sad film. But I never found that stepped into the realms of tear-jerking, it was never pushing you. So it’s not a film that should be put on “Top Films to Watch if you want to cry” because then you’re just missing out on a lot of what it has to offer.
Also, before I change the subject I just want to bring up the style the idea being that Suzu loves to draw and so occasionally the world is shown through her art which sort of put me off in the trailer. However, in the film I think it works well to turn it from just a portrayal of war to Suzu’s perspective, the moments when it appeared were all well done, and I think it really elevated some later moments.
I will say that I found the pacing to be off-putting at moments. It definitely made a lot more sense when finding out it was based on the manga as the film can really be put down to a series of vignettes, which sometimes end abruptly or bleed into one another causing the passage of time to be a bit confusing at moments.
I also think that this structuring made the transition to darker moments near the end of the film quite jarring. There’s a specific moment in the third act that this method does work for, as it becomes almost like a hard slap of reality which was very effective. However, there was another moment after that which felt like it was included because it was very dark, and because it was shocking, but didn’t really add to anything to the characters, and was so late in the film that it almost felt tacked on. People may not agree with that because it is such a reactive image regardless, but I think it could have be incorporated into the ending better.
Overall, I came out of the film thinking I wouldn’t need to see it again, but in the process of thinking it over for this review, I’ve come to enjoy it more and I think in a year or so I would like to come back to it. I’m sure the flaws I mentioned will still be there, but I think I’ll have much the same experience again, and so I’d definitely recommend it.