Director Shunji Iwai, who has gained wild popularity in his native Japan, creates this gorgeously rendered tale of love, remembrance, and loss. Though her fiancé Itsuki Fujii died in a mountain climbing accident over two years ago, Hiroko Watanabe (Miho Nakayama) is unable to move on. After a ceremony marking Itsuki's death, Hiroko pays an emotional visit to his mother. There she discovers his boyhood address in an old high school yearbook, and, on a whim, she writes a letter addressed to her old lover. Needless to say, she is more than a little surprised when she actually gets a response from Itsuki Fujii. This Itsuki Fujii, however, is a young woman (also played by Nakayama) working at a library and suffering through a particularly tenacious cold in the snowy expanses of Hokkaido. She also endured three years of classroom taunts at having the same name as her male classmate as junior high student-the same male Itsuki Fujii that Hiroko eventually fell for. Though the female Fujii initially worries that she has somehow been targeted by a lunatic, she and Hiroko begins to develop an odd sort of correspondence. The two begin to piece together their respective memories about the male Itsuki, revealing a love lost and a love rediscovered. Though Miho Nakayama gives a nuanced performance as the film's two lead characters, pop star Ranran Suzuki almost walks away with the film in her hilarious cameo as Sanae Oikawa, the deeply weird teenaged rival suitor to the male Fujii's attention. Iwai's deft touch fashions a narrative that could have been jumbled and maudlin into an elegant work, that, like Wong Kar-wai's brilliant Chungking Express (1994), artfully fuses humor with melancholy.
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