Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary, Japan, 2015)

Sisters’ serenity

Kore-eda Hirokazu wonderful melodrama had me virtually from the start. I’ve no idea why swelling music that accompanied a character going to work ‘got me’, but it’s a nice change from the sinking heart that has accompanied early scenes in films such as Phantom Thread where the film’s dead for me virtually before it starts. Kore-eda adapted this tale of sisterly love from Yoshida Akimi’s manga and although the drama is low-key throughout it is gripping.

‘Slices-of-life’ cinema tend to focus on grimness and have an educational value in showing the audience lives they (hopefully) are not experiencing. For many life is relatively comfortable (though as the UN’s rapporteur’s forthcoming report on the UK will show, the post-World War II gains in equality have been viciously reversed) and the drama in our lives tends to be infrequent and often benign. That’s not to say that tragedy and grimness can’t hit everyone, but it’s not an everyday occurrence for most. So how does Kore-eda grip us in a film were little happens? Immaculate direction and performance won’t be enough; we must be emotionally engaged.

It is the latter ‘trick’ that Kore-eda manages through the marvellously engaging performers of the sisters. The narrative disruption in their lives is an adoption of a teen half-sister who has none of the requisites to make drama (she ain’t going to be ‘sleeping around’ or ‘doing drugs’). Her arrival in their lives isn’t particularly ‘life transforming’ as they carry on with their loves (or lack of), work and sisterhood.

There are some transcendent moments in the peacefulness, the cycle ride in the ‘tunnel’ of blossom, for example. What strikes, overall, is the warmth of humanity when we can forget ourselves for a moment and put others first.

I’m going to enjoy catching up on Kore-eda.

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4 Responses

  1. […] Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary, Japan, 2015) […]

  2. […] One particularly disturbing scene is superbly done as is its aftermath. Like Mustang and Our Little Sister, In Between is a celebration of sisterhood in the face of male […]

  3. […] human as any nation. His film unearth the psychological damage such a repressed culture can cause. Our Little Sister, the first Kore-eda film I watched, differs from the others as it bathes the viewer in the warmth […]

  4. […] human as any nation. His film unearth the psychological damage such a repressed culture can cause. Our Little Sister, the first Kore-eda film I watched, differs from the others as it bathes the viewer in the warmth […]

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