Japanese Movie Review: Trumpet on the Cliff

Come join me as I share my thoughts on the Japanese movie Trumpet on the Cliff.  Its gorgeous music and beautiful location, combined with a great script, makes this movie a must watch. 


The Japanese movie Trumpet on a Cliff is about a college student, Aoi, who has had a heart transplant.  While recuperating she goes to stay with her uncle in Okinawa. On the cliffs by the sea, Aoi meets a young man in white playing the trumpet who has an almost mystical pull on her, and she begins meeting him secretly.

The Trailer

The trailer communicates the dreamy feel of much of the movie, which comes in large part from the music. There is a very beautiful, melancholy trumpet theme if you can imagine a trumpet being melancholy. We get a lot of breathtaking aerial shots in the trailer, and even more in the movie.

The Theme of Families

As she and her mom are initially driving to her uncle’s home in the countryside, Aoi hears a trumpet playing and tries to place it. Then when she starts taking long solitary walks by the seaside, she meets Gio on the cliffs with his trumpet and is intrigued. I was wary of him at first, but he seems ok, telling her that family is important, and that family is where you belong, even after a fight.

Aoi’s mother and uncle also talk about family and supporting each other. Her uncle writes children’s picture books, one of which they read several times during the movie. “At the beginning of summer, you get to hear the sad song of the dolphins. As the song stops the monsoon ends and over the blue sea and the clear sky, the summer festival begins.”

The Theme of the Sea

The dolphins and the sea are an important part of the plot, from the very beginning when Aoi sees visions of the ocean as she is wheeled into the operating room. She is pulled to the sea as much as she is pulled to Gio.

We watch Gio diving and bringing up shellfish and pearls. He lives with his grandfather, who is usually seen out in his boat. The grandfather has superstitious beliefs about dolphins, but maybe he knows something we don’t because they follow his boat and jump the waves.

The Problematic illness

I worried about Aoi because she went off alone so much and her uncle didn’t seem to be watching out for her. We don’t really know how long it’s been since her transplant, but she seemed ok until one day when she ran down the street and got all out of breath and had to take her medication. Then she went swimming and I started yelling at her and making wild guesses about what could happen next. It was pretty funny when some of those guesses started coming true!

The Problematic Musician

For a movie with so much beautiful music and a main character who is supposed to be a musician, they trip up here in a big way.  Gio makes a clarinet out of a carrot, which you can do but it won’t sound like a clarinet. That was just silly. But then he plays the trumpet in a close-up and does an extremely bad job of faking it. Someone should have told him that you have to purse your lips and put a lot of power into blowing into the trumpet in order to  make it sound well. I was not that impressed by what he gave Aoi for lunch, either.

The Surprise

Aoi is spending all her time with Gio, when suddenly another guy comes to see her from Tokyo. His name is Koichi we see via flashbacks that he had been her boyfriend before she got sick. He proves to be a nice guy, and takes her and her little cousin to the festival.

At the festival we meet another girl who is super cute and we discover that she is Gio’s friend and diving partner, Sanae. This gives the story a new turn. I thought I knew where things were going by this time, but I was surprised. Aoi’s health problems turn out to be a more integral part of the plot than we thought.

I enjoyed this movie a lot, as it slid from what I thought it would be into something new. It was interesting to piece together the clues, and the end result was very touching. Viki has had the trailer posted for a while, and it had such beautiful scenery that when the movie itself showed up, I was ready and waiting to watch it! Please watch it too!


Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

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