Our Little Sister

 

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Hirokazu Koreeda’s latest film is a family tale centred on three sisters and a younger step-sister.

 

Our Little Sister

 

The excellent Still Walking (2008) found the Japanese director Koreeda Hirokazu illustrating his indebtedness to his great predecessor Ozu Yasujiro. In Our Little Sister the spirit is again that of Ozu, but this is a tale of siblings rather than the kind of intergenerational portrait favoured by the master even if past history remains relevant. At the outset we meet three contrasted but close sisters. They are Sachi, Yoshino and Chika whose ages range from 29 to 19 and they set out to travel from Kamakura to Yamagata. This is in order to attend the funeral of their father who had made his own way in life taking on a second and then a third wife. Having also been neglected by their own mother, the sisters have created their own family unit with the eldest sister, Sachi, taking the leading role. At the funeral they encounter 13-year-old Suzu, a child of their father’s second marriage and it is Sachi who decides on the spot to invite this half-sister to join them in Kamakura.

Our Little Sister is a gentle film beautifully shot in colour by Takimoto Mikiya. The four main characters each face different issues in their lives and both Sachi and young Suzu possess an engaging directness that prompts thoughts of the late Hara Setsuko’s role in Ozu’s classic Tokyo Story (and that’s so even though Koreeda tends to play down the links between him and Ozu). However, Ozu’s minimalism with its attention to small but significant details was always linked to an underlying structure that made everything relevant and carried the plot forward however discreetly. Koreeda achieved something of that in Still Walking, but here with the story spreading over a year or more there is a lack of momentum due to there being no sense of the material growing structurally beneath the surface. Since the film lasts for over two hours, this means that Our Little Sister is less effective than Still Walking and impatient viewers may find it harder to engage. That said, this is admirably cast, totally believable and very sympathetic, so if you are attuned to Japanese films about family life this can be recommended even if it falls short of being a real masterpiece. 

                                                                                          
MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ayase Haruka, Hirose Suzu, Nagasawa Masami, Kaho, Kase Ryo, Maeda Ohshiroh, Fubuki Jun, Otake Shinobu.

 

Dir, Screenplay (from the graphic novel Umimachi Diary by Akimi Yoshida) and Ed Koreeda Hirokazu, Pro Matsuzaki Kaoru and Taguchi Hijiri, Ph Takimoto Mikiya, Pro Des Mitsumatsu Keiko, Music Kanno Yoko, Costumes Ito Sacico.

 

Fuji Television Network, Inc./Shogakukan, Inc./Toho Co. Ltd/ Gaga Corporation etc.-Curzon Artificial Eye.
127 mins. Japan. 2015. Rel: 15 April 2016. Cert. PG.