Renai Shashin: The Picture of Love
Renai Shashin–directly translates from Japanese to, “Love Photograph”. But the actual title of this movie is, Tada Kimi Wo Aishiteru (I just love you) or Heavenly Forest. It was first released as a manga and into a movie in 2006. I should get this out of the way but you should know that I’m a fan of Otsuka Ai, a Japanese singer. From 2005-2012, I wasn’t aware she sang the OST for a movie. It turned out this was that film. I was really hesitant at first, since at that time I just finished Koizora (2007). There is no way I’ll undergo another sad movie, two nights in a row. If you’re familiar with, Koizora, you know what I’m talking about. Honestly I only watched Tada Kimi Wo Aishteru because of my idol Otsuka Ai. My only mindset going into this film is to wait for it to play her song, Renai Shashin. And after watching it from beginning to end, I can’t help but feel uneasy towards myself because of the shallow reason for watching this film. I’m gonna tell you why.
I went in viewing this movie through the eyes of an innocent child. No recommendations, trailers, not even a synopsis or an idea what this is all about. But having watched a number of Japanese romantic comedies, dramas, etc. A little bit of idea played in my head. Briefly, the movie is about Segawa Makoto, a freshman in his first day at a university and a girl, Satonaka Shizuru which he met shortly. With both being on their first day, they took a liking on each other. Specially Shizuru, who took interest (but probably more on the effect that she likes Makoto’s company and it’s her way to be close to him) in Makoto’s hobby which is photography.
They start going to a certain forest near university where they took pictures, admired the scenery, bond and pretty much enjoyed each others company. Everything seems smooth until Makoto’s feelings started wavering. He develops this crush with his classmate, Miyuki. Pretty soon they started dating. Although Shizuru is aware of this, she only told Makoto he would be sorry for not choosing her instead. She claims she’s just a late bloomer and will mature as a very beautiful lady in time.
One day, Shizuru asked Makoto to take a picture of them kissing as a gift for her coming birthday. They went to the forest and took the photo there. After this, Makoto receives a letter from Shizuru which read: “Goodbye. Thanks for everything.” She left leaving nothing but that letter which made Makoto realize he’s really in love with Shizuru. He explained to Miyuki that he’ll find Shizuru the girl he really loves, which then leads to them breaking up.
The two main characters in this movie for the most part, I think were good. Although this is the only thing I’ve ever seen any of them for that matter; they did a good job playing the part. The female lead which is, Miyazaki Aoi, either you like or you hate her. She plays the cute, innocent and playful Shizuru which at times make funny faces which I thought were needed for her character. She pouts, puffs out her cheeks, and smiles like a little toddler. I enjoyed Aoi’s performance here and I admit she stayed on mind for a couple of months digging up information about her career. (Don’t judge me.) But if you’re one of those people who can’t tolerate such acting you’ll probably fall on the hate wagon.
Probably the problem I have with the characters is, the fact that you really don’t care about the supporting ones. I mean there wasn’t really any development or how they got together in the first place. Granted the movie is two hours long, it eventually leads back and refocuses on Makoto and Shizuru. I don’t even remember the names. And it’s not because I didn’t pay attention, I just simply don’t care. It’s like when a salesperson already sold you a blender and he’ll go berserk and tries to sell you some weird crap that makes pimple or acne to move from your face onto your back? Exactly. It doesn’t make sense.
The movie kicks off with a steady pace during the first half then it kinda stays there. I don’t want to say it, but it gets boring. It only gets good again in the second half of the movie. This is not me saying they should have cut off the first 48 minutes or so but they should have made the pace go consistently. I’ve watched a number of love stories so it’s not just because I don’t enjoy the genre entirely. Having said that, the second half will really get you back in. The moment Makoto searches for Shizuru, you’ll feel that the emotions are there, that these characters care for each other. You might be confused if I’m really bashing this movie or praising it. I can’t say because the highlight of Tada Kimi Wo Aishteru is somewhere near the end. So, I’m just choosing not to give anything away.
After mentioning all the problems I had with Heavenly Forest, I would 100% recommend you to go watch this movie. I mean it. Aoi is so beautiful in this movie. I smiled when she smiled. I cried when she did. I have one more but you’ll know that by yourself after watching it. Hevenly Forest isn’t the best Japanese love story out there but it gets a lot of things right.
The timing is right. The events one-by-one expound itself until it finally gets to you in full emotion. It is extremely honest. It makes you realize what you take for granted in life. Moments, persons, and opportunities which can impact our lives and eventually change it for the better may only come once. Life no matter what they say about it is a gamble. Right choices can produce wrong ones and vice versa. This film captured a lot of genuineness and reality as well as my heart. If you have someone by your side right now who is willing to take that next step with you, don’t be reluctant ’cause someone might realize how great that person is and you’ll never have that chance again. Capture the moment, be honest with that special person and just say it, Tada Kimi Wo Aishiteru.”
© Kim S. Franco 2013