Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore’eda (Like Father, Like Son; Air Doll) has established an international reputation as an auteur bent on making films that contain a gentleness and poignancy rarely found in today’s often aggressive and confronting cinema.
Our Little Sister, a delicate foray into the lives of three 20-something sisters in a small seaside town, is another example of the craftsman at work.
The film opens with the sisters finding out about the death of their father, a man whose infidelity had seen him abandon them (and their mother) more than a decade earlier. In her grief, the mother, too, abandons the girls, leaving them with a large house under the distant watch of their aunt and a plethora of kindly villagers.
The sisters discover that after he left them, their father had another child, before taking up with yet another woman. They travel to their his funeral and meet their younger sister, the delightful Suzu (Hirose Suzu), a shy, fragile 15-year-old girl who is now left in the care of her step-mother. On an impulse, the sisters invite Suzu to come and live in their rambling house.
Several scenes are utterly beautiful – the sun on Suzu’s face as she is escorted through an avenue of cherry blossom, the reflection of fireworks on the bay. Kore’eda’s direction at times seems to mimic the soft palette of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime (Spirited Away) as he captures the imagery of contemporary Japan beyond the greying bustle of its great urban centres.
The complexity of a family torn apart by betrayal and the death of a parent that the daughters’ did not love is captured beautifully in Our Little Sister.
Kore’eda avoids turning the story into the self-pitying, maudlin or tragic style that most Hollywood directors would bring to the screen. There are no hysterics. No loud noises. Instead, he draws from some of Japan’s finest actors (Suzu’s innocent “little sister” is delightful as she gazes with awe at her new family) to produce this most simple, peaceful film.
Our Little Sister will screen again on October 24 at Palace Nova Cinemas.
More Adelaide Film Festival stories and reviews:
Highly Strung full of passion, drama and beauty (review)
Secrets and revenge drive The Dressmaker (review)
Amanda Duthie’s Film Festival picks
When Romeo met Romeo: Remembering the Man
Michelle’s Story of resilience
Star-studded line-up for Adelaide Film Festival