Cherry Blossoms (2008)

Life after death…

Husband and wife Trudi (Hannelore Elsner) and Rudi (Elmar Wepper) live a quiet life in rural Germany. Every day Rudi goes off to work at the same time, eats lunch at the same time and comes home at the same time; all the while, Trudi harbours secret dreams of exotic lands. When she learns that Rudi is terminally ill, Trudi can’t bring herself to tell him but instead insists that they visit their grown up children in Berlin.

When they arrive, however, they discover their family no longer has room for them, so decide to visit the Baltic Sea. While Rudi is desperate to go home, Trudi revels in new experiences, but her happiness doesn’t last as, shockingly, suddenly, she dies. Torn apart by grief, and with no knowledge of his own life-threatening condition, Rudi becomes determined to live out his wife’s dreams and so travels to Japan to seek some peace among the cherry blossoms of Mount Fuji.

Writer/director Doris Dorrie’s film is slow moving – and could be accused of being slightly indulgent at times – but it’s exquisitely crafted, particularly in terms of the stunning, evocative visuals by cinematographer Hanno Lentz. The contrasts of Rudi’s subtle German tones set within the vivid, lurid colours of Japan beautifully highlights his ‘fish out of water’ status and underscores the importance of his journey. Equally as well defined are the pitch-perfect performances from a cast who clearly felt a deep connection with the material, with Wepper in particular being quietly heartbreaking as a man bereft without his soul mate.

Indeed, although the narrative is deeply personal, the themes within it will resonate with anyone who has lived through grief. And the predicament faced by Rudi will be recognisable to many; not just in terms of his bereavement, but also with the notion that the parents of grown up children may find their family no longer fits together as it once did.

Ultimately, and despite being difficult to watch at times, Cherry Blossoms is an uplifting film, at its heart the simple yet profound sentiment of never leaving it too late to chase one’s dreams. Indeed, the film may be a thoughtful meditation on the fragility of life, but it’s also a celebration on the powerful, enduring strength of love.

4 stars

Stars Elmar Wepper, Hannelore Elsner, Aya Irizuki
Director & Screenplay Doris Dorrie
Certificate tba
Distributor Dogwoof Pictures
Running Time 2hrs 7mins (approx)
Opening Date April 3 (at London’s ICA cinema and in key cities)