STEPHEN SHORTWhere Masato Harada likes clutter, Shunji Iwai wants space and measured strides between actions, thoughts, words. His return to the familiar ground he left in 1995's Love Letter is reassuring. And that's the problem. April Story feels too much like the B-side of that hit, with Iwai merely going through the motions to cash in on the original's success.The premise for April Story is feather-light. A young girl, Uzuki Nireno (Takako Matsu), takes the train from Hokkaido to Tokyo's Musashino University and attempts to settle in. She joins a fly-fishing club, is thwarted trying to meet fellow residents and seeks solace among the stacks in a book shop. And that's about it. Because this is Iwai, it all makes for rich gazing. Cherry blossoms dancing off trees bespeak joyful love, whereas in Love Letter it was deep snow for sad love. All agonizing shyness, Uzuki mouses her way along. She can't even answer a question from students as to why she chose the university. Don't know, she squeaks. Different reasons. Sorry.The film's quest is to resolve that question, which Uzuki finally does in voice-over 70 minutes later: If it was a miracle that I went to Musashino, then it was a miracle of love. Her inspiration is unrequited love, for a young man who had left Hokkaido for Musashino. We are shown the opening scene again, but this time she repeats her obsession, Musashino, to the rhythm of the train. Uzuki and that one scene are the best of the movie. But the overall premise disappoints, and Iwai chose to ride it to the end of the line.