Even though various reviews for this movie went into great length to underline its eccentricity as a family film, I had a pretty good idea just what type of film this would be. I'll explain that in a little bit.
So we meet this family residing and at the same time working out of their house which is also a hotel that inhabit one guest at a time. Right off the bat we meet all the members of the family as their new guest ventures into their lives after passing out on the street. I got a great sense of their hospitality as they sat to eat with their visitor and treated him just like they would one of their own.
It becomes apparent early on that much importance is placed on the youngest member of the family, an energetic tomboy named Mieko. Then we have the father who is content with sleeping away all day, the mother who is the main money maker in the household, working an undisclosed but rather obvious night shift job. Mieko also has two siblings, a brother who strives to be a boxer and a sister who's main desire is to meet her biological father. This brings us to the fact that all three children have different fathers of different races.
No matter how weird this may sound, all the members fit perfectly with each other and create a strong sense of unity and affection. Now one would think that with such premises set up, the story would dive into heavy sentimentality, but on the contrary, it presents these nuances in a comedic fashion for the most part. For example when the father of the boy resurfaces in the town, no tense moments occur as most members of the family greet him with excitement.
The way director approached this story was done very smoothly as everything feels light in its obscurity, but even though following Mieko amusingly took up much of the film, I wished that there was more back story created for other members of the family and even the guest. As the film was nearing the finish I was in a pleasant mood, however I was surprised how abruptly the end came and how innocent everything was left to be. Again this argument can go both ways since someone might be more demanding of an emotional impact, while others might be left satisfied by the sheer simplicity of Mieko's tale through its humor and exotic scenery of Okinawa. Personally I couldn't stop thinking about a more extraordinary film which I saw just months before called the Taste of Tea. It also deals with family matters but one reason why it achieves more lasting dynamics and entertainment is simply because of its length and character development. It spends plenty of time on each member and lets you observe them as they carefully look after and deal with each other.
So I definitely wouldn't have minded if Hotel Hibiscus was 30 or so minutes longer, but ultimately I had a fun time with this film even if it didn't achieve a much needed climax. Considering the sensitive past of Okinawa, the depiction of natives here was rather harmless without too many references, so if you're looking for a more dramatic film dealing with a family in Okinawa during or after the war era, I suggest you watch Song of the Canefields.
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