Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika (Kaho) are sisters in their twenties, living together in their family home in the sea side town of Kamakura. Left by their father fifteen years earlier and by their mother a year later, the girls’ are a tight knit, happy group who, although they had a grandmother, have ostensibly bought themselves up.
When they hear about the death of their father they agree to go to his funeral and meet for the first time their fourteen year old half sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose). They easily form a bond and since she is now orphaned they ask her to come and live with them. Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, this is a beautifully delicate look at the lives of the four young women.
The three sisters talk and giggle and laugh and squabble but perhaps there is a sense that their lives are too comfortable together, that it’s hard for them to move on with their adult lives. Chika the youngest was too young to really remember her parents and it’s clear that Sachi has carried too much responsibility from a young age. The arrival of Suzu seems to give them a new purpose in life, they can see the importance of their family but they can also come to terms with their past and start to make decisions about their futures.
This is a very tender portrait of family life told through unsensational, small gestures. There are moments of joy and of sadness, and the film floats along blending the two in an incredibly unforced way. There are simple moments that highlight the changing seasons – a bike ride through the cherry blossom or picking plums for the old family wine recipe. And there’s food – shopping for food, talking about food, fishing for food, eating food – and not just eating but joyously guzzling with laughter and conversation!
This could be a tragic story but it’s not, it’s optimistic and life affirming in its slow gentleness; their father may have been useless but he gave them their little sister.
‘Watercolour cinema with nothing watery about it’
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian
6 thoughts on “A Film For April: Our Little Sister”
This sounds like a beautiful story. Was it in English or sub-titled?
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It’s subtitled and really beautiful!
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A lovely write-up of a beautiful film – ‘tender’ is just the right word for it. I think I may have mentioned to you before that Kore-eda is one of my favourite contemporary directors – he’s a little like a modern-day Ozu, gently teasing out the complexities of familiar relationships. His Cannes prizewinner, Shoplifters, is well worth watching too – it’s much darker than this one but brilliantly observed.
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Yes you did Jacqui and you’re right the performances are incredibly natural! I’ve only watched one Ozu film, Late Spring but I can see the influence. I love the quiet, slowness of them, managing to be thoughtful without any sentimentality.