Ryota is a successful workaholic businessman. When he learns that his biological son was switched with another boy after birth, he faces the difficult decision to choose his true son or the boy he and his wife have raised as their own.
Twelve-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, hears a rumor that the new bullet trains will precipitate a wish-granting miracle when they pass each other at top speed.
Members of a cult, modeled on Aum Shinrikyo, sabotage a city's water supply, then commit mass suicide near the shores of a lake. Family members of those affected by it meet at the lake to observe the anniversary of their loved ones' deaths.
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
Koreeda's Aruite Mo Aruite Mo is a consideration of family that is part homage, part vivisection. The comparisons to Ozu that have been made are fitting, the film a return to the Golden Age of Japanese film-making when a distinctly Japanese setting was employed to convey universal themes. The domestic setting, limited time-frame, and even knee-high camera placement all deliberately connote Ozu, but not so much to bow before him, as to re-invent him, to update or even evolve the form. Koreeda seems to have set out less to pay his respects to Ozu, as to surpass him.
Ryota brings his new wife and stepson home to to meet his family on the anniversary of his older brother Junpei's passing. The cycle of pettiness, accusation, pouting and recrimination soon kicks in, familiar theatre of family that will have people recalling Thanksgiving get-togethers, Hogmanany parties, Christmas fall-outs... The joy is in the details of Koreeda's observations, and the forceful animation of them by the cast. From the opening conversation between mother and daughter, playful banter on lessons never learned, wisdom refused, the tone of interdependence with tense undercurrents is set.
YOU as Chinami is more straightforward than her mis-maternal role in Nobody Knows, angling to move in with her parents by talking to her mother as a type, rather than as a person. Kirin Kiki is best known these days here in Japan for her comic outing in the Fuji film commercials. She excels there and here, sweet and doddering at one point, and yet scary, almost vicious at others, as when she reveals the depth of her loathing for Yoshio, the boy-now-man whom her son Junpei died saving from drowning. Her cool gaze upon her grandchildren is evidence of Koreeda's consummate ease in avoiding sentimentality. Hiroshi Abe holds up his end more than competently as the brooding Ryota. Recently 're-structured', he finds his conflicting roles as failed breadwinner, failed heir, struggling stepfather and less-favoured son all brought to salience in this one event. He is too proud to admit his jobless status, but not man enough to help his wife carry the bags. He reacts just as his father reacts to the shock of retirement, or his mother reacts to facing life's disappointments - by lashing out. He is a grown man in gaudy cheap pajamas bought by his mum. He competes with not one ghost, but two - his brother, and his wife's first husband. Who can shine in comparison with martyrs?
Families can be joyous and awful, and Koreeda captures that to a tee. The film seems to go on a beat too long, past a line on the bus that seems the natural ending, but then the final narration (reminiscent of Twilight Samurai) and graveside scene pull it all together poignantly. Granddad thinks they will be back at New Year - they won't. Chinami thinks her mother wants them to move in - she doesn't. Yoshio thinks he is welcome every year - he isn't. Families are destined to misunderstand each other. And yet the honouring of Junpei, the father cracking water-melons with his children, Granddad reaching out to his step-grandson - the succour of family is also portrayed here.
No one does bitter-sweet and elegiac quite like Koreeda, and in Aruite Mo Aruite Mo he achieves the quintessential mix that he was arguably striving for in After Life and Maboroshi. This is a film both comforting and challenging, that may just turn out to be Koreeda's masterpiece.
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