A Gentle Breeze in the Village (Tennen kokekkô) (Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita): Director Nobuhiro Yamashita clearly loved school. His last film, Linda Linda Linda, was set in a high school, and this film is his ode to the rural schools, where primary and middle school students share the same building. Beautiful and sensitive Soyo is the only student in Grade 8 at her school in the idyllic countryside, and there are only six students in all. That is, until the arrival of Osawa, a cool boy from Tokyo. She’s immediately smitten with him, and although first love is thrilling for her, it also causes turmoil in her settled life. But Osawa soon fits in and is embraced by this remarkably close-knit group of students. The film covers a period of about 18 months, and all the time, Soyo can feel her childhood slipping away. This wonderful secure bubble will burst one day, but not just yet.
Yamashita has a wonderful way of portraying a sense of nostalgia, even while events are happening. It’s clearly an adult perspective, and it sometimes seems odd to see it being felt by teenagers, but it had me longing for the days when all I had to worry about was my school uniform. Adult problems hover in the distance. Osawa’s mother has some potentially major health issues in a town without a doctor. As well, she has moved back to town with him after her husband has left, and there’s a hint that Soyo’s father may be carrying on an affair with her. But in general, Soyo keeps all these worries at arm’s length. In her incredibly safe and love-filled world, she’s free to explore these new feelings for Osawa, all the while knowing that this means leaving behind her childhood for good. In one incredibly poignant scene, after a failed kiss with Osawa, she gently kisses the school’s blackboard. It’s a rehearsal for things to come, but also a farewell to something she loves deeply. Among all the gorgeous imagery that the film floats in front of us, that scene speaks loudest and truest.
Here is the Q&A with director Nobuhiro Yamashita from after the screening (the long pauses are when the translator is whispering the questions into his ear):