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What To Watch Thursday is Overdose’s weekly film injection: every Thursday we will tell you which cinematographic pearls are not to be missed!
Our Little Sister
Anticipation: With the Yasujiro Ozu season well under way at EYE, Amsterdam is in the mood for Japanese family dramas. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has proven himself to be contemporary Japan’s response to Ozu, a director he reveres. Two years since his Cannes Jury Prize win with Like Father, Like Son, the script of which was picked up by the jury president Steven Spielberg for an inevitable U.S. remake, Kore-eda returns with another film on unconventional family structures.
Appreciation: As its title boldly proclaims, Kore-eda’s last picture focused primarily on the men and the boys, as he also did with his previous work. His first feature mostly centered on women and sisterhood, Our Little Sister shows Kore-eda is as adept as ever in painting an authentic portrait of a family despite the gender shift in perspective. Adapted from a popular and on-going manga series, Our Little Sister finds three adult sisters living together in their childhood home in seaside Kamakura. After hearing of their father’s death, they attend his funeral in the northern town of Yamagata where he had relocated in his second remarriage after the death of the woman for which he left the sisters’ mother. There, they meet their younger half-sister and, noticing the ineptitude of the young girl’s step-mother, they decide to adopt her. While her arrival is welcomed with open arms, her presence unearths deep-rooted woes for the sisters.
So far so complicated, but the experience of watching the film is much less entangled due to the expert handling of narrative composition by Kore-eda, who also took care of editing and the script. Rather than capturing moments of friction, he lets the tensions broil through an exercise of accumulation – a deliberate pace that rarely trips into histrionics. As such, the story avoids markedly significant events. Those that have the potential to become one are handled with fleeting ease as if Kore-eda is shunning away from underscoring a dramatic moment. Similarly, the camera operates mostly from mid-shot distance to emphasize the sisters’ togetherness rather than their individual subjectivity. Despite this, the actresses manage to outline their characters in scenes that seem like endless repetition of preparing food, talking about food and eating food. In the end, however, Kore-eda’s humanist impulse drags the film into overbearing sentimentality. For a film with a radical proposition regarding non-normative families, it’s just a tinge too cozy.
Our Little Sister
Length: 126 min.
Where to see: World Cinema Amsterdam: August 20 & 22 (Rialto) and August 23 De Balie) – On general release December 3
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