I was a bit surprised by the sometimes frank and honest dialog coming from Aoi Miyazaki's character in what for the most part is a very family friendly bit of Japanese young love/first love cinema. But it is appropriate for her character, a set-to-mature-at-any-moment young woman deficient in some necessary growth hormones needed to push her over the edge (that when triggered by a first kiss could ultimately be her ... undoing) and seems trapped in young adolescence. It's a very cute and cute-funny, and really sad, sad, film. Miyazaki teeters the edge between coy and seductive so well it made me dizzy ... with delight. I could, however, understand her pouty lipped attempts at cuteness turning some folks off. She does slip out of it each time very quickly, though. That's part of her charm, I guess.
The film is beautifully photographed. The 'heavenly' forest is fairy-tale gorgeous, as are the three young actors we spend time with. The story is engaging too, clearly a novel-adapted one.
"Heavenly Forest" is about a photographer named Makoto (Hiroshi Tamaki), who travels to New York during Christmas to look for his best friend, Shizuru (Aoi Miyazaki). The two first met when Makoto attended his university entrance ceremony. Due to his inferiority complex, Makoto tends to shy away from other people but Shizuru managed to make him open up to her. Because of their friendship, Shizuru also ended up taking an interest in photography and the two often went to a forest to take pictures. Shizuru wants nothing else but to be by Makoto's side so when he started liking another girl called Miyuki (Meisa Kuroki), Shizuru decided that she too will like Miyuki and becomes her friend. One day, Makoto asked Shizuru what present she'd like to receive for her birthday. Shizuru, who wanted to enter a photography competition, had an idea to take a picture of the two of them kissing in a forest. Makoto agreed to do this and the two kissed for the very first time. Ever since that day, however, Shizuru disappears from Makoto's life.