J-Movie: Tada, Kimi Wo Aishiteru [Still, Loving You]

This is one of those movies where emotions are kept completely raw and they just get you in the heart! One of the reasons I love J series (movies and dramas) is their make of such wonderful drama. Their stories are so touching and down to earth innocent, anyone’ll love them! I had this movie in my collection for months before I finally got around to seeing it just after my exams! And it was just the perfect dose of happy and sad I wanted! I run away from tragedies; I can’t bear the heartbreak especially when it starts making me cry too 😛 But this was just the right one to bring me tears and lots of smiles!

The story follows our protagonists Makoto (Hiroshi Tamaki and Shizuru (Aoi Miyazaki). Makoto is shy and tends to stay away from crowds and people in general. Shizuru is a “weirdo” who befriends him and Shizuru is always the blunt one, telling him she likes him. She’s got the appearance of a kid and reveals it’s because she lacks the growth hormones but promises him that one day, she’ll appear before him, all womanly and beautiful and he would regret not going out with her. Makoto takes her declarations in stride, more amused than serious and they both develop a friendly banter as they live together due to circumstances. One time, Shizuru wants to submit a photograph for a contest and asks Makoto to help her with it. She wants it to be of the two of them kissing. He agrees and realizes he’s not as indifferent to her as he thought. But before he can tell her his feelings, she disappears from his life. Years later, he goes to New York in search of her after he gets a letter from her.

[Story and Ending Spoilers Ahead]


“She used to lie very often”

These are the words that introduce us to Makoto at the beginning of the movie where he’s travelling in a train as he reads a letter from someone. In voiceover, he thanks Shizuru for her letter and tells her he is coming to find her.

Back when they first met, Makoto was uneasy around people as he has some sort of injury on his waist which requires constant application of medicine. But he thinks the medicine stinks and believes people will be able to smell it if he is close to them so stays away. He spies Shizuru standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the cars to slow down so she can pass but none of the cars slows down. Hesitantly, he approaches her and tells her that there is another pedestrian crossing ahead where the cars slow down so she can use that one. She tells him she’ll wait here-she wants to see if there is a Good Samaritan who will stop for her. When he’s walking away, Makoto takes a snap of her standing there.

He sits in the very back of the classes and spies Shizuru sleeping during them as he spies another girl he seems to have a crush on. After class, when he walks the other way, the girl he was looking at turns back and wistfully sees him walking away.

Shizuru approaches him during break and sits down to eat with him. That is the beginning of their friendship. They both go to a closed forest and soon it becomes ‘their spot’. They hang out taking pictures and developing them in the darkroom in Makoto’s house. They have most fun one day when they spot a beautiful bird and try to photograph it but cannot.

Then Makoto is approached by the girl he was watching, Miyuki one day during lunch. She invites him to come and sit with their group. In voiceover, Makoto says this might have been the day Shizuru realized he liked Miyuki. Now he’s friends with them and rarely hangs out with Shizuru. One day, his friends are making fun of Shizuru and she walks in on them, having come to hand Makoto a book.

When she leaves without a word, Makoto follows her to their forest where she’s on the verge of tears. She tells him she’s more disappointed in him than his friends. Couldn’t he have defended her a bit, told his friends she wasn’t weird, just a bit more original than other people! Makoto apologizes and offers her her favorite food-donut biscuits! Later she tells him the reason she is like this is because she has a hormone problem and hasn’t properly grown up yet and promises him she will grow up one day, wear a revealing dress and become really beautiful.

Makoto becomes friendlier with Miyuki and even brings her to the forest, causing Shizuru to lasH out at him. She tells him this was supposed to be their place, their getaway. Although Makoto apologizes, he doesn’t realize what the reason behind Shizuru’s outburst is until the next day.

The next day, he runs all over the place trying to find Shizuru who doesn’t show up for class. In the end, he finds her with Miyuki. Miyuki and Shizuru become instant friends, bonding over a pair of bracelet and necklace each one is wearing. The stones both girls are wearing are stones of love. When Makoto asks her what she’s doing, she tells him, “I just want the person I love to fall in love with the person he loves.”

At present, he’s in New York looking at his watch as he waits for someone. We see someone checking their watch elsewhere in a place where photographs are being hung on the walls-means an art centre. This person-a girl, is wearing Shizuru’s bracelet. She runs out and grabbing a taxi, goes to where Makoto is getting ready to take pictures of the landscape.

In the past, Makoto and Shizuru bond more after he finds out she has run away from home. She plans on using a free studio at the university as temporary stay place but he tells her to move in with him. That night, he spies a pharmacy package in Shizuru’s bag and she tells him its simple medicine. In voiceover, he repeats, “She used to lie very often” The next morning, Shizuru volunteers to go ahead so no one will see them together but he simply follows after her. Later, Shizuru cooks and he marvels at her skill-he didn’t even know she ate cause all he ever saw her eating were the donut biscuits. She tells him she had to do it at home all the time while she looked after her sick brother but he passed away a week ago. Her mother also had a genetic disease which caused her death when Shizuru was young. “It’s a disease where you die when you fall in love.” She tells him she’s going to eat a lot and grow up a lot too!

Miyuki asks Makoto to accompany her to a show. Later on, he can’t take Shizuru out because he already promised Miyuki. While he’s at the show, Shizuru stays home and stares at the pictures all over the walls, in particular the one of her at the pedestrian crossing. That night, Shizuru’s at the counter when he gets back, holding tissues to her bloody mouth-her tooth just fell out. She tells him its proof that she’s growing up now and asks him if he has kissed Miyuki already. Makoto brags and says they’ve kissed five times already. Then she tells him her idea of the photograph and to her delight, he agrees. She happily tells him, “I think I’ll die of happiness if you kiss me!” Makoto asks her when her birthday is and tells her they should celebrate it together. She tells him not to worry about her birthday and to focus on Miyuki. Makoto tells her he already feels a closure to his crush on Miyuki.

The next morning, they go to the forest and Shizuru sets things up. When she takes off her glasses, Makoto is surprised at seeing her and realizes she is actually taller than when they first met. She reminds him she’s finally growing up. They take the picture. Makoto is Later, Shizuru stays behind as Makoto leaves for class and she asks him, “Was there even a little bit of love in that kiss?” Before he can respond, Shizuru tells him to go ahead. He tells her he will cook for her tonight. She watches him leave before turning back to the lake with a smile. Walking to class, Makoto mulls things over.

Evening comes. Makoto buys and brings groceries. When he’s about to prepare dinner, a note on the refrigerator catches his eye. Looking around, he finds Shizuru’s luggage missing. He runs out to find her. The note reads, “Goodbye. Thank you for everything.” He finds out she withdrew from school that afternoon and frantically goes to her house but she’s not there either.

Finally, he returns to the spot where they had met in the morning and stands there as it heavily rains. In voiceover, he thinks to himself, “That was my very first kiss and I thought it was the beginning of everything. But… If only I had taken the first step earlier… I had taken the peaceful and relaxing days I spent with Shizuru for granted. Never had I even imagined there would be an end to those days.”

He lies in bed, cold and sick as a storm rages outside and softly calls out her name. Days later, he is even sicklier when his friends discover him and take him to the hospital. It is then that he realizes for the first time that his medicine has never smelled and it was only his own fear of it that made him think it did. When he’s recovered, his friends cheer him up. Even though they couldn’t find Shizuru anywhere, they’re here for him!

Miyuki confesses she has also liked him all this while but realizes his feelings are for Shizuru. All the friends say goodbye to each other and head towards their own paths in life. In voiceover, Makoto says it seems like he is the only one left behind.

Time passes and he becomes a photographer. He’d often return to the lonely forest. Until one day, he received a letter.

Present day: The person who’s come to see Makoto from the art house is Miyuki. She takes him to the apartment she says she shares with Shizuru and tells him Shizuru has gone to Los Angeles for some work and he won’t be able to see her in this trip. Although crestfallen, Makoto smiles and tells her he can always come back. Compared to the time when he never even knew where she was, this is much better as he at least knows where she is. Miyuki tells him Shizuru wanted him to see this exhibition of hers and it would be held on the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, he should visit the city and roam around.

As we see Makoto spending his day in the city the next morning, there is a cut back to the empty apartment where the phone rings and a voice message is recorded. It’s for Miyuki, from Shizuru’s dad who tells her that the 49th day’s ceremony has been completed and he has buried Shizuru’s body in the family grave. He thanks Miyuki for taking care of Shizuru and doing all that she has. (It is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the movie as the realization sinks in. Like Makoto, I never saw this coming!)

When Miyuki returns that afternoon, there is complete silence in Makoto’s room and going in, she finds him in the dark, holding Shizuru’s letter. He asks her where Shizuru is. When Miyuki starts to say LA, he asks for the truth-he has heard the voicemail. Miyuki tells him the truth. Shizuru had inherited her mother’s genes and had the disease ever since she was born. When she would mature, the disease would mature with her and she would die. She’d lived her life being careful not to grow up. When she’d met Makoto, she’d fallen in love and because she wanted Makoto to feel the same way about her, she’d wanted to grow up. Miyuki tells him it’s the choice she made. In a way, she died because she fell in love. She knew what would happen but even then, she wanted to grow up, to become an adult, to fall in love and live her life to the fullest. She hadn’t wanted Makoto to know about it. “Because the Shizuru in Segawa (Makoto) is not dead yet. Even if it’s a lie, I want to continue living in Segawa’s heart.”  She wrote him many letters in her final days and asked Miyuki to post them one by one.

The next morning, Miyuki takes him to Shizuru’s exhibition. Inside, he sees her photographs. She’s taken pictures of people a lot, many of people expressing love. He walks ahead and sees a picture of her.  She had grown into a beautiful woman just like she’d promised him.

In voiceover, we hear the letter she left Makoto and see how her life has been for the past two years. All the while, tears fall from his eyes as he sees her words in a new light.

Dear Makoto, how are you? It’s been two years. Were you surprised by the sudden letter? First of all, I want to apologize for disappearing without thanking you for everything you have done for me. On that day you kissed me, I suddenly felt embarrassed. Not by the kiss, but at the fact that I was all talk and didn’t mature at all. That’s why; I decided to take a little adventure. I call it, “Journey of Independence.” Just depending on my camera, that you taught me how to use, I came to New York by myself. It was a good thing I had the courage to come but I didn’t have a destination. I just wandered around for days until I was hired by my current photo agency. It’s pretty famous over here; an independent agency by the name MG Studio. And you know, I was working as an assistant for this independent photographer and I was taking my own photographs too. One thing lead to another and it turns out they will be having an exhibition of my photographs. I really want you to see my exhibition-my first exhibition and the sight of me, who has grown so much in these two years. I’m sure you’ll be astonished when you see me now, because as I declared to you earlier, I became a beautiful woman. I’m sure you will regret it, “I should’ve gone out with her then”. But the truth is, things like that aren’t important. Right now, I just want to see you. I want to see you and if possible, hear you praise me. I want you to tell me, “You’ve worked hard” “Good Job”.  With a kind voice, just like back then (She refers to the time he had guided her about the pedestrian crossing). “You can’t cross here, so you should cross ahead.” I fell in love with you that very moment, you know.”

He finds two whole walls filled with pictures of him that she took over the time when she was with him but he never realized.

At the very end is her feature picture. Makoto stares at it as her words come back to him. It’s the picture of their kiss she took before she left.

“I started to love you more than anyone else in the world, you know.”

A caption by the picture reads, “It was the only kiss, the only love I have ever known.”

Her voiceover of the letter continues as we see her in her last days in the hospital, writing the letter. “Hey Makoto, was there at least a tiny bit of love in that kiss?”

And now, Makoto replies to her-the words he’d always wanted to say but had missed the right moment when she left, “There was. It wasn’t even close to a tiny bit. You were… my everything.” Scenes of their past flash back in his mind as he remembers all the times he’d spent with her, especially when she’d told him her mother had died of a disease “that kills you when you fall in love” and “If you kissed me, I might die from happiness!”

(This is such a heartbreaking scene! I cried throughout it the moment he stepped into the gallery and saw her photograph. They’d both loved each other in their own ways but he had never gotten the chance to tell her because he’d never thought there’d be a day when she was no longer a part of his life.)

Outside, he tells Miyuki he is going back in the afternoon and she reminds of what she once told him, that “You hold the happiness for another person in your hands.” Shizuru received that happiness from him. He asks her to keep sending him Shizuru’s letters. In voiceover, he says, “She used to lie very often. I want to be fooled by her lies for just a while longer.”

In the end, we see Makoto receive a postcard from Shizuru and he reads it with a happy smile. It seems to be the last letter she left for him as she talks about different ways of saying farewell to someone and ends it with “See you again in some other place”. Makoto walks away just as we see the bird they had both spotted together once fly to Makoto’s mailbox and sit on it for a bit.

Maybe one day they will be together somewhere somehow… 🙂

About hitomiakiko

Architect and Aspiring Writer

Posted on March 10, 2012, in Asian Cinema, Entertainment, Japanese Cinema, Potpourri, Recaps, Uncategorized, Written Excerpts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. this movie was showed me about a great love from a heart. i think i has been seen this movie until now, never feel bored 😀 . i think you must see a girl from her own heart. so please love your girl/boy before something happened.

  2. GOD! I ended crying just reading your recap. I’ll probably be bawling if I saw the movie.

    • Mary, I cried when I saw it the first time, then again when I wrote the review! 😥 The actors did a wonderful job! It really was a roller coaster movie but in a good sense! If you ever do get into the mood of watching something sad but hopeful, do watch this! 🙂

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