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Still Walking is a family drama about grown children visiting their elderly parents, which unfolds over one summer day. The aging parents have lived in the family home for decades. Their son and daughter return for a rare family reunion, bringing their own families with them. They have gathered to commemorate the tragic death of the eldest son, who drowned in an accident fifteen years ago. Although the roomy house is as comforting and unchanging as the mother's homemade feast, everyone in the family has subtly changed. Written by
The Film Catalogue
Rarefied endearing family story, disharmony ambiguously masked by revelry of sumptuous food and familial banters
"Still Walking" aka "Aruitemo Aruitemo" Yet another superb delivery from Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda who gave us "Nobody Knows" in 2004. It's like we're eavesdropping on a private family reunion event. Central to the story is from the viewpoint of the second son, Ryota at age 40, going home to his parents' house via public transport with his new wife, a widow, and her 10 year old son from previous marriage. Yes, he doesn't own a car like his sister and brother in law. He's actually wary about hiding the fact that he doesn't have a substantial job and asks his wife not to breathe a word at the family occasion. His parents will be disappointed, especially his father who has counted on the second son to take on the family medical clinic business and be a doctor rather than any other trade - since the eldest died 15 years ago. Ryota has 'imprisoned' himself by these expectations which he is unable to, and frankly does not want to, fulfill. Underneath the pleasant bantering with his mother, we can tell he is struggling to find himself, make peace with himself and go on with his life.
Writer-director-editor Koreeda's passion provided us a close look (ever so casually, unhurried at its own pace so we get to be familiarized with each member of the family) on how a Japanese family might function on such a reunion gathering. We are put at ease watching mother and daughter preparing food in the kitchen, the whole family huddled around the meal table, the spontaneous exchanges. By and by, subtle clues are displayed and we may see the other side to each person's personality and hidden desires. Then there are pause moments to relish some family coziness or mother-son cordial exchanges. The storyline is far from 'flat' at its leisurely pace: "familiarity breeds contempt" or "absence makes the heart grows fonder" - either could be true. As the evening goes on, more aspects surface - be it mother, father, son, daughter in law, or grandson - we share their sentiments, satisfied or empathized.
"Still Walking" is a rich film. We are fortunate to experience it with so many levels rendered to us. I appreciate the reverence paid to the traditional family ritual of honoring the dead. Yes, a chance for a family outing, seeing Ryota and his 'new' family - wife and stepson - together is encouraging. The 'yellow butterflies' folklore is heartening.
The film also brings to mind quotes from Louise L. Hay's book, "Heart Thoughts - A Treasury of Inner Wisdom" on forgiveness (page 90): "We do not have to know how to forgive. All we have to do is be willing to forgive. The Universe will take care of the how." And on happiness (page 94): "Happiness is feeling good about yourself."
The theme music by Gonchichi is just right for the mood and state of inner peace - its guitar playing chords and melodic strains is quietly serene. What a soothing melody, giving the film a resigned, calming, happy with himself again leisurely tempo - simply apt to the story of "Still Walking." Visit the official site 'www.aruitemo.com' and you can listen to the music and check out 'Director's Statement' with Koreeda talking about his film.
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