Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda brings a small heartwarming tale to the forefront of foreign cinema.
Since the film’s UK release at the BFI London Film Festival (2015), Our Little Sister has steadily made a name for itself within the foreign film sector. Each actress respectively, Masami Nagasawa, Haruka Ayase, Suzu Hirose and Kaho, were all nominated for various honours at the 39th Japan Academy Awards; consequently winning the Audience Award from the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Adapted from the manga Umimachi Diary by Akimi Yoshida- a serial running from 2007-2016 in Flowers Magazine; the film follows the same premise of three siblings united with the daughter of their estranged and late father.
In a simple-telling against the backdrop of rural Japan, we see the story through the eyes, or at least from the side of each sister. It’s unobtrusive, sympathetic to each character and sympathetic to a situation and family force that could quite easily be told like a farce or in a way with little dignity.
Instead this film is raw and kind. The tone remains the same throughout. Despite the sisters taking on a stranger, their younger sister during a time of loss, they do something courageous and bold. The family dynamics are complex and yet nothing seems like trouble for the trio.
The character arcs are simple, believable and charming. They’re all learning about themselves whilst learning how to look after and raise their sister. Each of the four sisters have their own story, a connection to the things around them in different ways. Something that plays out well. They teach their new sister what she doesn’t know and they teach her their ways of life whilst their own love lives are challenged, just as much as the views they have on the various people they have passing through their lives.
Tacking problems that many films have explored, making Hirokazu Koreeda’s film stands out in the way in which it doesn’t. No one shouts. No one swears. No one gets hurt. Nothing explodes. Suzu is the only one who lets rip, but it’s validated by the context of the scene. And after all, she’s only human.
In correct fashion, the plot moves forward. What Hollywood films lack at times, Our Little Sister employs.
There’s a fine balance between drama and art. The culture is explored beautifully. The dialogue is necessary, profound, humours and philosophical at times. Whilst we want to watch the film for its plot, we also want to see the Cherry Blossoms and every dish they make and serve at their home table. It’s exectuted well. The highly celebrated photographer and cinematographer of three films Mikiya Takimoto, has dedicated a page on his site for Our Little Sister. The stills page encapsulates the detail, craft and colour palette of this piece of work.
It’s bittersweet. It’s beautiful. It’s an easy watch and a worthwhile watch, and if anything, it’s likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Domestic Lifetime Gross: $531,996
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1