A film by Hirokazu Koreeda
2008 / Japan / 115 minutes/ col
6th April 2014; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater
A family haunted by a long-dead son gathers to remember him but spends most of the day consumed by old resentments and tensions in this quiet, compelling Japanese drama. The story, covering 24 hours, centers on the Yokoyama clan, whose first-born died rescuing a drowning boy. The dear departed, Junpei, is very much present as the three generations pass the time preparing food, eating and talking, with the children playing, watching and listening. There's a brief trip to the cemetery and a few other outside scenes, but most of the film takes place in the grandparents' house.
The central figure is Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), Junpei's brother and an unemployed art restorer. He's resented by his gruff father (Yoshio Harada), a retired physician who had hoped Ryota would study medicine, as Junpei did. To make matters worse, Ryota has married a widow with a 10-year-old son.
Also present are the matriarch (Kirin Kiki), who, like her husband, measures Ryota against the impossible standard of his brother; Ryota's sister (played by the single-named and squeaky-voiced actress You), who would like to move her family into the parents' house; and the siblings' children.
Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda was born in Tokyo in 1962. Originally intended to be a novelist, but after graduating from Waseda University in 1987 went on to become an assistant director at TV Man Union. Sneaked off set to film _Lessons from a Calf (1991)_. His first feature, Maboroshi no hikari (1995), based on a Teru Miyamoto novel and drawn from his own experiences whilst filming _August Without Him (1994)_, won jury prizes at Venice and Chicago. The main themes of his oeuvre include memory and loss, death and loss, and the intersection of documentary and fictional narratives.
In a short period of time, Hirozaku Koreeda has gained a solid reputation as one of the most significant figures of contemporary Japanese cinema. His oeuvre is currently comprised of eight films including his television documentary work with TV Man Union, Inc. and his narrative films (After Life, Maborosi) which reflect the contemplative style and pacing of such luminaries as Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. He has become a cinematographic tightrope walker who almost unnoticeably switches between fictitious and real territories, between narration and invention, the private and the public.