When Ryuichi Hiroki had a big hit last year with “Yomei 1-kagetsu no Hanayome (April Bride),” a drama about a young woman’s struggle with terminal breast cancer, I was glad for him. In a directing career of two decades, he had never enjoyed this sort of commercial success and, unlike the hacks who serve up product to order, he actually deserved it.
Taking material that had “tear-jerker” written all over it, he made a film honest about the disease, beginning with its harsh emotional toll. Also, his heroine was not the usual pure-hearted martyr, but an ordinary woman who wanted very much to live. Finally, the visuals celebrated the beauty of her love — and the world she was about to leave — with a lyricism all the stronger for being understated.