A Unit of Family Drama
Hirokazu Koreeda's family drama, Still Walking, takes place over the course of one day, where a family consisting of an elderly couple and the families of their son and daughter gather at the couple's home. The occasion? The funereal anniversary of the eldest son's accidental drowning, which took place over a decade ago.
Though the years had gone by, the impact of this tragic event has etched permanent marks on the relationships of the family members, which all subtly seep through during the course of their informal and level interactions. It's hardest on the remaining son, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), who not only has a ghost to impossibly live up to (turns out the eldest was a noble man who was to follow in his father's medical profession) but also has made some unpopular personal choices, such as marrying a widow with a son. Koreeda's film will inevitably draw comparisons to the works of Ozu, as his movie follows similar tracks -- it contains many understated conversations in lieu of passionate blow-ups; the camera is often static; and there are observations of the activities of multiple generations (as if in a nod to Ozu, Koreeda allows a shot of a train rolling by during the title sequence).
The film is a realistic slice of family dynamics, about how resentments are pent up to the point of a resigned bitterness, how long-held expectations eventually lead to little disappointments, about generation gaps, and especially about how the shadow of a death in the family never ever goes away. Though conceivably the dramas contained within any given family could produce something as intriguing, Koreeda makes it worth our while to watch these people, allowing us to dig for nuggets of information, piecing them together, and learning something about the resilience of family bonds along the way.
(Released by IFC Films; not rated by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.