Clouds of secrecy obscure the depth of adolescent romance in the surprisingly mature and frequently moving teen meller "Sky of Love."

Clouds of secrecy obscure the depth of adolescent romance in the surprisingly mature and frequently moving teen meller “Sky of Love.” Based on a novel circulated to over 11 million readers via a Japanese cell phone network and published in paperback in 2006, yarn expertly pushes the right buttons to dial distaff teens. Huge fan base will mean sky-rocketing B.O. on local release in early November, with warm reception likely in other Asian territories. However, in the West, mix of saccharine with issues like teen sex, rape and legal abortion could be too tricky for either adults or teens.

After losing and then retrieving her cell phone, attractive high schooler Mika (Yui Aragaki) begins to receive calls from an anonymous admirer. A summer-long phone romance leads to an eventual meeting with bottle-blonde cool guy Hiro (Haruma Miura) and quickly accelerates to Mika’s deflowering.

Pleasurable sexual initiation is promptly followed by sexual humiliation when Hiro’s jealous ex, Saeki (Asami Usada), hires three thugs to rape Mika. Saeki then publicizes her rival’s alleged promiscuity through the school gossip network. Enraged, Hiro overcomes his characteristic aloofness, and the bond between him and Mika actually strengthens.

Persevering with both school and sex, Mika eventually gets pregnant. Hiro believes he’s ready for fatherhood, but both sets of in-laws harbor reservations. Yarn follows couple’s progress over the years, with some surprising (and some unsurprising) developments.

Both Aragaki and Miura display a convincing intimacy as the romantic protags, and supporting perfs are also strong. Commanding direction by TV helmer Natsuki Imai eschews flashiness, maintaining a tender atmosphere between the melodramatic high points of the well-constructed plot. However, jettisoning of scenes about the marital difficulties of Mika’s parents would make this two-hour-plus effort much more digestible for time-conscious Western auds.

Lensing has a washed-out quality that resembles a poor HD transfer, even though pic was shot on 35mm. (Decision to reduce color during the digital-intermediate stage seems a puzzling one.) All other tech credits are top-quality.

Sky of Love

Japan

Production

A Tokyo Broadcasting System, Maho's L'land, Les Pros Entertainment, Toho, MBS, TC Entertainment, Fine Entertainment production. (International sales: TBS, Tokyo.) Produced by Masayuki Morikawa, Arsushi Nasuda. Executive producers, Kazuya Hamana, Masaki Mitsuno. Directed by Natsuki Imai. Screenplay, Mutsuki Watanabe, based on the novel "Koizora" by Mika.

Crew

Camera (color), Hideo Yamamoto; editor, Junnosuke Hogaki; music, Shin Kohno; art director, Katsumi Nakazawa; sound (Dolby Digital), Fusao Yuwaki. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Special Screening), Oct. 23, 2007. Running time: 128 MIN.

With

Yui Aragaki, Haruma Miura, Asami Usada, Karina, Yumi Aso, Joji Takahashi, Yuko Asano, Keisuke Koide.

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