It's easy to roll your eyes and dismiss this film as “yet another popular Japanese romance weepie”, but truth is it's a dramatic interpretation and enactment of a real person's last days, a youth who was given the short end of the stick by Fate. On one hand you're tempted to frivolously park this under Clichés, but on the other, realizing that it's based on a true story (with dramatized moments of course), your interest gets piqued in trying to understand the reasons behind the filmmakers decision to want to turn her story into a feature film, because there must be something in it that inspired them to do so.
Nana Eikura takes on the role of Chie Nagashima, a sprightly young girl whom Chance has set up a meeting with Taro Akasu (Eita), and from their random, memorable encounter, strike up a serious relationship over time, only for Chie to confess one day, when she couldn't hide her condition any longer, that she's suffering from breast cancer. Coming from a guy's perspective, cancer might just be another disease to do battle with, given the advances of modern medicine, but I do feel that it has some significant impact from a female perspective, because it could be a blow to making a woman feel complete, especially when advanced stages of the cancer calls for removal of the breast.
The film at no time tried to preach in heavy handed ways about breast cancer, which in the first place was largely absent and a filmic plot device. It took a different approach, in quite shrewdly making mention, and hopefully to win over some audience mindshare and to research more about the condition, as a take away from the film. As a romantic movie, one cannot steer clear away from saccharine sweet moments that two lovebirds share, and director Ryuichi Hiroki smartly balances these events with enough dark clouds looming. For instance, the physical intimacy which they share very early in the film, will soon give way to separation of sorts, or the cycling down the streets at night at high speed, crossing junctions without slowing down, brought out that sense of danger always peeking from around the corner in their relationship.
Writer Hiroshi Saito thankfully tuned down the melodrama which could be seen from his earlier, recent effort in 252: Signal of Life, and portrayed all characters here with quiet dignity instead. Ryuichi Hiroki, having done some arthouse films that are female-centric, definitely knew how to put the spotlight on Chie as a likable character whom you will feel for, and enabled you to share in her struggles and pain, knowing that each day alive is a miracle and a gift, but yet being too weak to seize the day and make the most of it. It is this dilemma that will hit you hard especially if you have so far been leading life without aim or fulfillment, and here witnessing an event where people make the best against the clock.
You can't help but to contemplate over the what you would do if you were in Taro's shoes, making great personal sacrifices for someone you love deeply, to the extent even of upsetting one's parents even, who had reproached him to rationalize and make emotionally detached judgements. I felt that if one has genuine, deep feelings for someone, then you're likely to be as stubborn as a mule, optimistic too especially when the characters here are youths, defiant with belief of invincibility at the prime of one's life. An outcome of the actual documentary that Chie had shot, and this film for that matter, was to level this sense of complacency, since it's quite horrific how one's temporary inaction, could result in such a drastic outcome, in a short frame of time.
If there's a favourite scene of mine in the film, it has to be when Taro and Chie's father (Akira Emoto) share a private moment in the confines of Chie's hospital room when she had a night's off. It's an extremely touching piece whereby a stoic man broke down and showed his tremendous gratitude to someone whom he had only been strangers with, and finally understanding the positive effects Taro has on her daughter. This single scene had won this film over for me, and triumphed, in my opinion, over many others that will equally tug at your heartstrings. Prepare those tissues please.
At the end of the movie after the credits roll, the filmmakers had put up a dedication to the real Chie, and to those interested, here's a glimpse of the real television documentary that she had agreed to make. It's in Japanese with Chinese subtitles, but don't let that put you of:
April Bride opens on 8th October 2009.