It didn't take me too long to realize that Iwai is one the cinematic epitomes of rich human elaborations, as well as a cultivating virtuoso and a master of abstract imagery and atmosphere. As an amateur film maker I couldn't have been more appreciative of the way he combined subtle expressions with sounds of music that set moods for his characters in the most distinctive and relating way.
Obviously out of the wide range of movies he did, from the initial look Hana and Alice seemed most linkable to All About Lilly Chou-Chou. In a way it seemed like a new chapter to the original film which took on friendship in a harsh and mesmerizing manner, and more ways than not, Hana and Alice was just what I wanted to see from Iwai.
As we meet the lead characters, nothing seems extraordinary and we get a glimpse of what two friends do on their way to and out of school. Iwai, perfectly capable of story telling without any twisting premises set up and he can go on for hours it seems by simply offering realistic dialogs and gorgeous visuals. Of course when the male character gets introduced the chances of a conflict quickly arise, but the story chooses to shelf Alice for the short time while letting Hana follow Miyamoto as he numbly recites poetry without looking ahead. Really there is no point in me detailing how exactly the trio come about, it's nothing astounding, but entertaining and at times harmlessly humorous.
Other minor but compelling conflicts are planted in both Hana's and Alice's lives, but the building blocks seem more geared toward heightening the love interest of the two leads. In the midst of all the romance and friendly endeavors, Iwai doesn't shy away from creating ambiance as he once again reels into the darkness, similar to what he did in AALCC, but this time around with dove like images of ballerinas dancing and glimmering under a pursuing light. All of this fitting beautifully with the story and underlining his unique style.
Obviously equal emphasis is put on how Hana and Alice mature with time and since the film is rather long, sufficient time is given for that to convey albeit through some events that might seem a bit filler to those unaccustomed to Iwai's style. Considering how young the actors are their delivery was perfect and they were able to pull me right in as I developed a genuine fascination for what they were going through. However, as the film was nearing the end, the romance slowly deflated. The resolution with Miyamoto was carried out abruptly toward the end. Understandably so, it seemed like his sole purpose was to strengthen the bond and importance of Hana's and Alice's friendship, but not so much to make the truly worthwhile romantic impact that the film was using as its backbone the entire time. Again, that's something that was purposely articulated and may not please all.
Some might find such closure to be a bit inadequate, others might find Hana and Alice's reunion after a minor struggle with love to be enchanting and perfectly satisfying. I got pleasantly stranded right in between, as this film was able to hit some strong marks with great acting and Iwai's superb visuals. Definitely an easy recommendation to the fans of the director and alike.
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