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 ...
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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
Its not often I return to see a film immediately to see it again, but this is a film which demands it. This is a masterly film by Koreeda following an ordinary middle class Japanese family has they have an annual reunion to commemorate the older brother who died rescuing a boy from drowning. In its slow, gentle, poetic way, this film brings us into the heart of the family so well you feel it is your own - indeed, the characters are so real, so richly portrayed, that you almost come to believe you know them as well as your own family.
A simple plot précis doesn't do justice to what this film is about. It shines a light into those repressed areas of resentment, sentimentality, nostalgia, guilt and desire that are so often hidden behind a facade of politeness. Koreeda is too subtle a director to have any big blow ups or surprises - he reveals his characters in a gentle manner as detail is laid upon detail. When the ending comes it is not a surprise, but it is still profoundly moving and thought provoking. This is a film that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
A lot has been made about the films debt to Ozu. I think this is very overstated - although there are one or two stylistic nods to Ozu at the beginning, Koreeda is a very different type of film maker. Unlike Ozu he uses tiny surreal moments of beauty to contrast with the realism of the rest of the film. His use of editing and camera work is far less formal and rigorous - instead he allows the camera to follow the characters, revealing the layers of the home. And most importantly, while Ozu emphasised the death of the traditional Japanese family and considered it with sad resignation, Koreeda sees families as all alike, stuck in a series of inescapable cycles. In many respects this film reminded me more of some of Naruse's classic films than Ozu.
The cast is uniformly excellent, with Kiki Kirin utterly wonderful as the grandmother. The only very small quibble I have with the casting is that Koreeda succumbed somewhat to casting some characters who are a little too elegant and good looking for the 'normal' people they portray. Hiroshi Abe and Yui Natsukata are maybe a little too good looking to be convincing as the less than 100% welcome family members. But that is a very minor criticism of what is a terrific ensemble piece.
I think this film is one of the finest of the year and may well come to be seen as a classic. It can certainly sit comfortably with any of the great films of Japans golden era.
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