Others may prefer Miike or Kitano or Miyazaki and styles are subjective but alongside Naomi Kawase, Hirokazu Koreeda is perhaps Japan’s other most consistently brilliant director over the last twenty odd years. After Life, Distance, Nobody Knows, Still Walking, I Wish, Like Father Like Son all received suitable critical acclaim.
Often focusing on family life, his dramas are at times both full of dreamy abandon and cruel harsh realities. He has been rightly/wrongly compared to Yasujiro Ozu, the master of Japanese cinema (alongside Akira Kurosawa). But for me, Koreeda is more colourful, more restrained. Not better, or worse, just different. Ozu really delves deep into a singular dilemma and inspects every facet of the characters involved under a large microscope with a huge amount of scrutiny. Koreeda allows his protagonists a little more freedom, to express, to roam.
Our Little Sister is no different. It is classic Koreeda. After the death of their estranged father, three sisters meet their younger half-sister for the first time and invite her to live with them. From here we are introduced to the very different sides of each sister and how they relate to each other and with the world in very different ways all the while supporting and comforting each other.
It’s very simple stuff but it works. It’s a lovely film. Full of emotional struggle and gentle filial awkwardness as the youngest sister tries to assert herself in the new household. For the most part beholding the bond between all four is a joy to watch.
A charming film then but, for me personally, a little too delicate and almost too compassionate and twee. The family dynamic of the eldest as the wise mother whilst balancing a frankly rather unwise relationship was interesting. As was the second eldest and her endless doomed relationships. But I found their little bubble wrapped world faintly silly, verging on unrealistic. Maybe I’m a sucker for on-screen carnage and found this saccharine trip a little too much. It doesn’t pack the same punch as his other films and the dialogue was slightly off in places but these are small matters. It is yet another success for Koreeda.