Saturday, March 09, 2013

Still Walking

Written, directed, and edited by Hirokazu Koreeda, Still Walking is the story about a family coming together to commemorate the anniversary of the death of their eldest son as they all spend their time together. The film is an exploration into the world of family from young and old as they all revel in the small joys of life. Starring Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, and You. Still Walking is a touching yet exhilarating film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

A family gathering is always a chance for different generations of people to come together and enjoy each other’s company no matter how flawed they are. In this story, it is about a family coming together to commemorate the death of a loved one as they do every year. Yet, the circumstances are different as one of the family members in Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) arrives with a new wife and his young stepson as they’re about to meet his family for the first time. At the home where his parents live as his older sister also arrive with her husband and two kids to celebrate the passing of their brother Junpei. The family gather to eat and play around though Ryota still has issues with his father (Yoshio Harada) over Ryota’s chosen profession feeling that Ryota should’ve maintained the family business in being a doctor. Still, the family come together to eat and talk about all sorts of things all in the span of an entire day.

While the film doesn’t have much of a script, Hirokazu Koreeda maintains that idea of family as they all come together to talk and such while the kids help out their grandmother in preparing food for the day. Even as the conversations often talk about death, life, food, and the little things though the father is somewhat detached often making criticism over some things. Still, he participates in all of the family activities while they have a couple of visitors coming in including a young man who felt responsible over Junpei’s death. There are some revelations about some of these visits as well as other things in the family where it involves things like records and such. Even as certain ceremonies are performed in this particular day.

Koreeda’s direction is quite straightforward in the way he presents compositions by keeping the camera still yet he does manage to do a few things where the camera is moving. Notably in scenes that takes place outside of the house where Ryota and his family walk to the hill with his mother to visit Junpei’s gravestone as well as scenes where the children play outside. Koreeda maintains a lot of some simplistic yet effective compositions to capture the dynamic of family of how they conduct their activities and lives in a small, confined space such as their parents’ home. The shots are often intimate yet very lively despite the restrained tone of the performances that is also shown in the film‘s more elliptical yet low-key editing. Still, there’s a lot that Koreeda puts into these images that play out the idea of family who are devoted to one another including Ryota’s wife Yukari (Yui Natsukawa) and her son Atsushi (Shohei Tanaka) who find themselves becoming part of the family. Overall, Koreeda creates a very moving yet engrossing film about family.

Cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki does brilliant work with the film‘s photography from the low-key yet intimate shots of many of the film‘s interior settings to the gorgeous look of the film‘s exterior setting to complement this mix of city life with nature. Art directors Toshihiro Isomi and Keiko Mitsumatsu do wonderful work with the look of the family home that is this mix of old-school Japanese home with a bit of a modern look as it includes some little details such as the decaying tiles in the bathtub that says a lot.

Costume designer Kazuko Kurosawa does terrific work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual for the younger characters while the older ones dress in more conservative clothing. The sound work of Yutaka Tsurumaki and Shuji Ohtake is superb for the intimacy that is captured in the home as well as the sounds of the beach and trees in some of the film‘s exterior setting. The music of Gontini is just a true delight as it’s a very simple and understated piece led by a plaintive acoustic guitar to play out the innocence while the film’s soundtrack includes a pop song by Ayumi Ishida called Blue Light Yokohama that reveals a mother’s youthfulness.

The film’s cast is just phenomenal as it features some noteworthy performances from Susumu Terajima as a sushi delivery man, Ryoga Hayashi and Hotaru Nomoto as Ryota’s nephew and nieces respectively, Kazua Takahashi as Ryota’s kind-hearted brother-in-law Nobuo, and Haruko Kato as a man who visit the family who blames himself for Junpei’s death. You is amazing as Ryota’s older sister Chinami who does a lot of the talking while being observant over what is happening in the family. Shohei Tanaka is wonderful as Ryota’s stepson Atsushi who finds himself as an outsider in this gathering yet starts to fit in with this new family while pondering about his own late father. Kirin Kiki is great as Ryota’s mother Toshiko as she is this eccentric yet loving woman who is so full of heart and joy as she is just a joy to watch.

Yoshio Harada is amazing as Ryota’s father Kyohei as he is this retired doctor who feels lost as a retired man while grumbling about the decisions Ryota made yet finds himself enjoying the company of Atsushi and Yukari. Yui Natsukawa is fantastic as Yukari who arrives to the family home as a newcomer as she finds herself intrigued by Toshiko’s kindness as well as some of the dysfunctions of Ryota’s family. Finally, there’s Hiroshi Abe in a remarkable performance as Ryota as this man who is a bit reluctant to attend this family gathering while he faces some of the issues he has with his father while finding moments where he finds a strong bond with his family.

Still Walking is an incredible film from Hirokazu Koreeda. With a great cast and beautiful location settings, it is truly one of the most poignant films to explore the dynamic of family as well as how a family comes to term with loss and hope for new beginnings. For fans of Koreeda, this film is definitely one of his most accessible as well as something that truly transcends all barriers in creating a film that is universal. In the end, Still Walking is a sensational film from Hirokazu Koreeda.

Hirokazu Koreeda Films: (Lessons from a Calf) - (However) - (August Without Him) - Maborosi - (This World) - (Without Memory) - (After Life) - (Distance) - Nobody Knows - (Hana) - (Air Doll) - (I Wish) - (Like Father, Like Son (2013 film)) - Our Little Sister - After the Storm - (The Third Murder) - (The Shoplifters)

© thevoid99 2013

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