A manga series that ran in a Japanese monthly magazine for girls, circa 1980, supplies a gentle story adapted by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son, Goro. “From Up on Poppy Hill” is their second collaboration (Hayao supplied the story for 2006’s “Tales from Earthsea”) and a lovely specimen of hand-drawn animation from Studio Ghibli. Finding a father lost at sea in the Korean War is the quest that unites two upstanding teens in 1963 Yokohama. Eleventh-grader Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) helps run a boarding house with her grandmother while her mother studies in America. Umi raises nautical signal flags, just as her father once taught her, hoping his ship will return to port. At school she meets Shun (Anton Yelchin), the editor of the school’s newspaper and ringleader of a crew of after-school club kids trying to save their rickety headquarters from demolition. Umi joins the cause and the first girls set foot in the nerd enclave. The detailing of the boys’ extracurricular pursuits is as curious as the rhetoric in speeches about democracy, tradition and modernity. Appeals to a higher authority, an alum in Tokyo, will win the day. But the main plot line matches two snapshots of three sailors and that complicates the mutual affections of Umi and Shun. Gary Rydstrom directs the English-language talent from a script adaptation by Karey Kirkpatrick. With voices of Gillian Anderson, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Jeff Dunham, Isabelle Fuhrman, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Aubrey Plaza, Charlie Saxton, Alex Wolff. 91m. (Bill Stamets)
“From Up On Poppy Hill” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity film critic and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)