Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: Our Little Sister

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. 
The films of Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda are, much like the works of the great Yasujiro Ozu, gentle stories about families and relationships that are light on plot and heavy on observation as to how humans interact.

His latest, "Our Little Sister," is a kind hearted story about three sisters who are estranged from their mother and whose father, who left them years ago to marry another woman, has just died. While attending his funeral, they meet and befriend the younger girl, Suzu (Suzu Hirose), whom he sired with his second wife.

But rather than feel antipathy towards Suzu, the three sisters invite her to come live with them, rather than stay with her stepmother, who was the girls' father's third wife (Suzu's mother, the second wife, had died).

The three estranged sisters all have temperaments that should clash, but they manage to live together peacefully. Sashi (Haruka Ayase) is serious and works as a nurse at a hospital, while unlucky-in-love Yoshino (Masami Magasawa) is a bank clerk and Chika (fashion model Kaho) works at a shoe store with her likably dopey boyfriend.

Those who enjoy films that are heavy on story may struggle slightly with "Our Little Sister," which gets most of its plot mechanics out of the way in the film's first 15 minutes when the sisters invite Suzu to come live with them. For much of the rest of the picture, Suzu and her three step siblings merely become accustomed to their way of life with one another - eating at a diner where the owner gives them preferential treatment, Suzu excelling at soccer and befriending an eager young man who appears to have a crush on her, Sashi considering how serious she wants her relationship with a depressive man to be, etc.

Kore-eda, who burst onto the Japanese film scene with the lovely 1998 fantasy "After Life," makes films that tenderly observe the rituals of family and how people communicate with each other. There's very little in the way of melodrama or stylistic flourishes, but rather the director parks his camera and allows it to capture human interaction. It's the type of film that takes a little getting accustomed to in terms of its rhythm, but once you're on its wavelength, you get to know its characters and invest in them.

"Our Little Sister" does a nice job of capturing the relationships between siblings - and not the squabbling you might expect, but rather a group of people doing their best to keep the best interests of those close to them at heart. It's a kind hearted, well made drama about good natured people with whom it's well worth spending a few hours.

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