DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
STILL WALKING (ARUITEMO ARUITEMO) (director/writer: Hirokazu Koreeda; cinematographer: Yutaka Yamazaki; editor:  Hirokazu Koreeda; music:  Gontiti; cast: Hiroshi Abe (Ryota Yokoyama), Yui Natsukawa (Yukari Yokoyama), You (Chinami Kataoka), Kazuya Takahashi (Nobuo Kataoka), Shohei Tanaka (Atsushi Yokoyama, Yukari’s son), Kirin Kiki (Toshiko Yokoyama), Yoshio Harada (Kyohei Yokoyama), Ryôga Hayashi  (Mutsu Kataoka), Hotaru Nomoto (Satsuki Kataoka), Haruko Kato (Yoshario, saved drowned boy); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Yoshihiro Kato/Hijiri Taguchi; IFC Films; 2008-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

 
"Though Kore-eda is no Ozu, like who is, he proves that he can make the same kind of impactful domestic pic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda ("After Life"/"Nobody Knows"/"Distance") updates Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 family drama masterpiece Tokyo Story (maybe the best film ever made), with this darker tale of a bickering dysfunctional middle-class family unable to connect with each other and are overwhelmed with the spectra of death. Though feeling a bit bloated at times and unable to outdo Ozu's more compassionate and enlightened film, nevertheless Kore-eda's observant seriocomedy, darkly funny at times, of an unpleasant 24 hours a son spends with his estranged parents, has a penetrating sting that connects with modern-day family discord experienced throughout the world. The pic's disturbing domestic situation is hard to shake off and sticks with you long after viewing it. 

The pensive 40-year-old art restorer Ryo Yokoyama (Hiroshi Abe) makes his annual pilgrimage from Tokyo to his seacoast hometown of Yokohama to observe a private family remembrance ceremony for his older brother Junpei, who drowned 12 years ago rescuing a drowning child on the beach. Ryo brings along for the first-time his widow wife Yukari (Yui Natsukawa) and his adolescent stepson Atsushi (Shohei Tanaka). The conflicted Ryo has a problem dealing with his prickly elderly parents (Kirin Kiki & Yoshio Harada), whom he resents for always belittling him and looking down upon him that he didn't follow in his self-satisfied retired dad's footsteps as a clinic doctor. The parents hold their older son in high-esteem because he was following in dad's footsteps. Mom is always complaining about everything, while dad is always grouchy--except when they talk about Junpei, then they both become misty-eyed over their favorite child. Also visiting is Ryo's manipulative older married sister Chinami Kataoka (You), her pushy car salesman husband (Kazuya Takahashi) and her two cute young kids (Ryôga Hayashi & Hotaru Nomoto). The squeaky-voiced daughter gets along fine with her parents and has a temperate relationship with her distant brother.

During the visit mother and daughter prepare the elaborate meal, the children noisily play in the yard and there's a visit to the cemetery. After the ceremony and lunch, the daughter leaves with her family by car and that leaves Ryo to bear the full brunt of old family heartaches and resentments. Ryo is so turned off by his martinet father and his nagging mother that he doesn't even tell them that he is currently out of work. After spending the night Ryo and family return home by bus and he tells his wife I told you the visit would be unpleasant.

The emotionally charged film has everyone air their grievances with each other before the visit ends, and the bland Ryo and his sweet wife agree that the next time they will leave after lunch while the clueless parents think their son will visit again for the New Year.

Though Kore-eda is no Ozu, like who is, he proves that he can make the same kind of impactful domestic pic, with an engaging emotional imperceptibility and an effortless wisdom that sparkles during its many understated moments.

REVIEWED ON 5/24/2013       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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