Raised on a small farm in Southern Ohio, my grandfather hunted and grew much of the food we ate at the enormous Sunday dinners my grandmother prepared, from tasty quail and rabbit to fresh sweet corn and tomatoes. The piece de resistance was often apple pie, made from fruit harvested from backyard trees. My grandmother was also a subscriber to a magazine called "Prevention" that advocated organic food — a radical idea in the United States in the 1950s.
So the story of Yoshihiro Nakamura's "Kiseki no Ringo (Miracle Apples)," based on the decadelong quest of Aomori farmer Akinori Kimura to grow apples without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, had a certain familiarity to me. Even the program's photo of the still-spry Kimura, wearing wire-rim glasses and a big toothless grin, reminded me of Grandpa, though Kimura is exactly my age, to the month (he's 63). It is also a testimony to the harshness of his struggle, as well as to his ultimate success.
Inspired by a 2007 NHK documentary on Kimura and a 2008 biography by Takuji Ishikawa, Nakamura and scriptwriter Tomoko Yoshida have made a film that faithfully traces the outlines of Kimura's "lost decade," with fictional embellishments. But to fans of such earlier Nakamura films as "Fish Story" (2009) and "Golden Slumber" (2010), with their intriguing "what if" premises, cleverly complexifying narratives and brilliant tie-it-all-together climaxes, "Miracle Apples" will probably be a big, puzzling letdown.