Our Little Sister (2015)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Umimachi Diary

Japan, 2015Toho Company, GAGA, Film, Fuji Television Network, Shogakukan, TV Man Union.  Screenplay by Hirokazu Koreeda, based on the manga by . Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Hirokazu Koreeda.  

Three sisters attend the funeral of their estranged father, where they encounter both the little girl he fathered with his mistress as well as the wife to whom he was married when he died.  Immediately liking young Suzu, they invite her to come and live with them where they become protectors and friends.  Eldest sister Sochi is a doctor who has always been the responsible one, middle sibling Yoshino works at a bank and is boy crazy, while youngest and wildest sibling Chika works at a sporting goods store and has fun with her eccentric boyfriend. Suzu has no problem fitting in with them and a palpable sense of love and happiness develops quickly, but that does not mean that there is no drama brewing: the girls’ mother shows up to throw a wrench in the works, her difficult relationship with her daughters compounded by the fact that they are happily living with the child of the woman who ruined her marriage, while Suzu herself has to reconcile her newfound happiness with the shame of being the product of a home-wrecking woman.  Director Hirokazu Koreeda has such a delicate touch for the finer emotional points of the story that even scenes of watching people be happy and harmonious are dramatically compelling; when it’s time to turn up the heat and give these characters their conflict he manages to achieve dark, deep sorrow while barely turning the dramatic volume above a murmur.  It could use a slight trim towards the end, the conclusion is slightly overdrawn, but there’s no denying that it is a richly satisfying and beautiful experience.

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition

Toronto International Film Festival:  2015

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