OUR LITTLE SISTER (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015)
Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. at Mercer St., 212-995-2570
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, July 8
In such films as Still Walking, Nobody Knows, and Like Father, Like Son, Japanese writer-director-editor Hirokazu Kore-eda has crafted beautifully told tales of parents and children, of estrangement and divorce, of death and ritual and the unbreakable bonds between siblings. In his latest minimalist masterpiece, Our Little Sister, he focuses on the women of the happily dysfunctional Kōda family in the scenic city of Kamakura. Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), and Chika (Kaho) live together in a large house, where they go about their days with the normal trials and tribulations of twentysomething women. Sachi, the oldest, is a nurse who acts as a surrogate mother to her younger sisters, since their real mother plays almost no role in their lives. Yoshino, the middle sister, works in a bank and likes to stay out late drinking and partying. And Chika, the baby of the trio, is sweet and goofy, but not as goofy as her mountain-climbing boyfriend. When their long-estranged father dies, they decide to attend the funeral, where they meet their dad’s thirteen-year-old daughter from his second of three marriages, Suzu Asano (Suzu Hirose), a solid, smart girl who seems a bit lost now that both of her parents are dead. So the three older sisters invite her to move in with them in Kamakura and extend their family. The four immediately grow close as they live their daily lives, going to work or school, eating together, interacting with the opposite sex, and honoring their deceased ancestors. Suzu also regales them with tales of their father, some of which surprise them. Not a whole lot happens except a series of heartfelt, realistic scenes that audiences of all kinds can relate to.
Freely adapted from Akimi Yoshida’s josei manga Umimachi Diary, Our Little Sister simmers with the beauty and energy of real life, as Kore-eda offers viewers a fly-on-the-wall look at four exquisite women living day by day. Kore-eda once again blends documentary techniques with the intimate style of Yasujirō Ozu to fully develop his delightful characters, from the four sisters to their great-aunt to a student smitten with Suzu to local diner owner Sachiko Ninomiya (Jun Fubuki), who serves as a kind of tenderhearted matriarchal figure to the community. Yoko Kanno’s sweet music and Mikiya Takimoto’s lovely cinematography make it all a visual and aural pleasure, along with a fabulous cast that acts with an infectious naturalism. No one makes family dramas like Kore-eda, who skillfully avoids treacly plot twists in favor of simplicity, making it all seem easy. If you’ve never seen a Kore-eda film, Our Little Sister is a great place to start, and if you have experienced any of his previous work, this one is another gentle, graceful, and immensely engaging tour de force from one of the world’s most talented and original filmmakers.