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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Trumpet On The Cliff"

2017/03/25 | Permalink

Aoi (played by Nanami Sakuraba) is a young Japanese student suffering from a heart condition. Even so, Aoi's mother Michuko (played by Otsuka Nene) encourages the girl to just make a point of enjoying herself on beautiful Okinawa. It isn't long before Aoi meets Ji-oh (played by Byung Hun) a mysterious local boy who makes a point of coming out every once in awhile to play beautiful trumpet music to the ocean. Together, they enjoy themselves.

Although largely a Japanese production, "Trumpet On The Cliff" does have, in addition to Byung Hun, the benefit of writer/director Han Sang-hee who has some experience with filming in beautiful Okinawa. Curiously, outside of a fairly brief and rather muted local cultural festival, there's little to no emphasis on anything that could reasonably be called a standard tourist site. Aoi and Ji-oh mostly just stand around and look at the ocean. There's not even any kissing, because that would complicate Aoi's relationship with Koichi (played by Yuki Kubota), her actual love interest.

So you might be wondering, if Ji-oh isn't Aoi's love interest, what is he exactly? Well, the charitable answer to that question is that he represents regret. Ji-oh's mere presence in Okinawa is obviously and explicitly inappropriate, but he lingers on because, well, Okinawa sure is great isn't it? And being alive in Okinawa, that's even better right? There's an obvious running theme about how, for young people especially, the hope of having something is infinitely more important than having nothing at all. Love is understood, even if it at times seems masked by secrets.

The more cynical answer to that question is that Ji-ho is a really dumb gimmick which I am hesitant to describe explicitly because it will make the entire movie sound very, very ridiculous. In the fairy tale context it does make sense, but as generally grounded in the real world as it is, "Trumpet On The Cliff" is only just barely able to sell the plot twist. And even then, we're left with some pretty severe gaps in logic like what exactly the trumpet has to do with Aoi's medical condition.

Excepting the goofier plot points, "Trumpet On The Cliff" does work fairly effectively as standard melodrama. Indeed, in some ways it's a case study in how melodrama is often essential to make a truly sad story. Sanae (played by MIU) is Ji-oh's love interest in flashback, and their story tugs at the heartstrings precisely because we know there's going to be a miserable ending. It makes their temporary love that much sweeter.

Whereas with all the other characters, they represent archetypes at best. While this is enough to keep the story moving and makes them easy to empathize with as people, the inherently generic nature of these concepts is such that nothing about them stands out as unique. So family members love other members of their family that's uh...something I guess. While a decent enough genre film, don't expect anything too memorable from "Trumpet On The Cliff".

Review by William Schwartz

"Trumpet On The Cliff" is directed by Han Sang-hee and features Nanami Sakuraba and Byung Hun.

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