Beyond the Clouds

Kumou no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho *
Genre: Serious
Score: Excellent
Length: Film

Set in an alternative world where Japan was divided between Russian and American territories, this film tells the story of three children living close to the border: two boys Hiroki and Takuya, and a girl Sayuri. They grow up looking at an enormous tower, that’s just across the straights on the Russian side. The time they spend together is magical: the boys are rebuilding a plane from spare parts, and promise to one day fly over the sea to the unknown. And then Sayuri disappears, and the boys go their separate ways and move on with their lives, but with a feeling of something missing. Three years later they start to discover what happend to Sayuri, what the tower really is and how they’re connected.

From the director of Hoshi no Koe (Voice of a Distant Star), this beautiful film proves what can be achieved when one artist is given complete control over a project. It’s touching, uplifting, and above all imaginative – it’s able to take you into the story and make you believe and feel it in a way that a film made by committee never could. It’s also visually stunning, without ever detracting from the emotion of a scene. I can’t recommend this film enough.

* A literal translation would be “Beyond the clouds, the promised place”. The fansubbers called it “Beyond the clouds”, but the official English name is “The place promised in our early days”, which sucks.