tl;dr verdict: A beautiful movie.
Before I proceed, I should just caution that this review includes spoilers.
I must first applaud Satoshi Kon, whose amazing directing skills elevated my enjoyment of this movie. Clever visual details are inserted, like the entrance of the space station opening as if it were a lotus unfolding– this mirrors Fujiwara’s love for lotuses. The transitions from scene to scene are seamlessly interwoven. A train track switches to a highway scene, the silhouette of one character melts into another.
The movie is a journey through Fujiwara’s acting career, and it is difficult to separate reality from fiction as in both worlds she pursues only one thing– the man who stole her heart years before. A dream-like sequence introduces the antagonist, an old lady with a spindle, spinning what represents a never-ending cycle for chasing the key owner. We recall the witch from Sleeping Beauty, who curses her to centuries of sleep. Here the lady condemns Fujiwara to arguably a harsher verdict– she will never find the end to the chase. The old lady also says something strange: “I hate you so much, but I love you so much. One day you will understand.”
Indeed, Fujiwara learns the meaning behind these mysterious words, and so does the audience. The old lady is actually Fujiwara herself, grown up. She hates her younger self, for she knows that time will eventually take her youth and audacity that the man recognizes. But she also loves her younger self, precisely for her youthful spirit and energy.
Fujiwara’s revelation is uncovered at the end, as she flies into space. She loves the key owner, and is off to chase him again, but even if she does not find him, it almost does not matter. Because really, she loves the chase. The mere possession of a passion invigorates Fujiwara’s acting, but it also gives her a direction in life.