This sweetly tender film from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is superbly natural and unassuming, finding delicate notes of affirmation and optimism and quietly celebrating the beauty of nature and family love. it’s watercolor cinema without any water, in the classic “family drama” vein you might associate with yasujirô ozu, although in a conversation in cannes last year, where I first saw this, the director told me his inspiration was more mikio naruse. our little sister is not as defiant and overtly painful as the previous movies of hers wish for her or as a father, as a son, and there may be some who find her a bit meek or even sentimental; I can only say that there is something subtly subversive about the emotional dynamic that kore-eda creates with three or four women on screen.
is adapted by kore-eda from akimi yoshida’s umimachi manga diary, and tells the story of three sisters in their twenties, who live together in a beautiful house that originally belonged to their grandmother. yoshi (masam nagasawa) works in a bank and is quite happy with her job and her singleness, but she drinks too much. chika (kaho) works in a sports shop and is the baby of the group. Sachi (Haruka Ayase) is a nurse at the local hospital: beautiful, serene but emotionally frozen, unhappily involved in an affair with a married doctor. she was recently offered a promotion, which would mean working in the terminal room; perfectly aware of how honorable and valuable her work is, but unhappily aware that it is somehow sinister to her personally.
The three of them separated from both parents a long time ago. his father left them to live with another woman, with whom he had a son before moving on to wife number three. his mother also left, leaving them as young adults in the family home. But when they get the news of their father’s death and go to the funeral, they meet his sweet and lovely teenage half-sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose) and decide on the spot that he should come back and live with them.
Their new little sister is a complicated miracle in their lives: she amuses them, she pleases them, almost like an adult doll. she is remarkably well adjusted, happy in her new home and happy at school. they adore suzu of her and love to take care of her; she gives them a new purpose in life and a new kind of personal direction, and yet her existence reminds them of their own orphan status and strangely infantilized existence, babies in a gradually shrinking self-made forest. suzu might actually be making this worse. even before she showed up, they were emotionally stagnant and calm. they are hardly more adults than suzu. Are their lives going upside down?
is a very enjoyable film, bringing back the classic images of Japanese provincial family drama: rural train rides, group meals and discussions linking family and food, thoughtful uphill bucolic walks, denoting humility and patience , melancholy funerals, and some wonderful seasonal compositions.
With humility and discretion, the director puts an easy spin on the lives of this quartet, moving calmly from home to school, from the private sphere to the tense public world of the workplace. nothing is emphasized too much, the voices do not rise much, even in moments of great tension; nothing in the drama or directing is very strenuous and yet it packs power. Just like when I first saw this, I loved Suzu’s innocently ecstatic ride on the back of a bike, turning his face into the sunlight. Watching this movie is an injection of vitamins for the soul.