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Gentle drama (2008)
Something you don't think about when you are young is getting old, not just your growing years but your parents. After all, you moved out to get away from that protection, right? But life is cyclical and as they looked after you then you will end up looking after them when they are eventually unable to look after themselves and behaving childlike, as I experienced with my old man. When the Tories finalize their oppressive welfare system they better account for the fact that one-in-five middle aged people are forced out of work and onto benefits to look after their elderly parent or parents because the state closed most of the rest homes. When my old dads dementia got worse I moved back home and signed on and had no choice but to do that. It's all about family and the circumstance forced upon you, the subject and integrity of this engaging and honest Japanese drama. At the moment most of you only have to suffer mum and dad for Sunday lunch. Make the most of it as its downhill from there on in.
Hiroshi Abe...........as Ryota Yokoyama
Yui Natsukawa......as Yukari Yokoyama
You................... as Chinami Kataoka
Kazuya Takahashi.... as Nobuo Kataoka
Shohei Tanaka........ as Atsushi Yokoyama
Yoshio Harada........ as Dr Kyohei Yokoyama
Kirin Kiki............... as Toshiko Yokoyama
Susumu Terajima .......as Sushi deliverer
Every year the Yokoyama family begrudgingly gets together at their parents house by the ocean to commemorate the death of their son in a car crash. Aging mum Toshika (Kirin Kiki) is the matriarch and looking forward to all the fuss and gossip, dad, Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), grumpy and curmudgeonly that his children haven't lived up to his high expectations, especially oldest son Ryoto (Hiroshi Abe). Dad thinks he should have become a doctor like him, instead living with a pretty divorcee (Kazuya Takahashi) and her small son You (Chinami Kataoka), working in a museum as an archivist in the big city hardly a doctors salary and standing. Ryoto's younger brother Atushi (Shohei Tanaka) is the joker of the pack and so excused his responsibilities to achieve, whilst big sister Toshiko (Kirin Kiri) is easy going and dutiful and happily married.
Every year mum orders takeaway sushi from the same local deli, somewhat sadistically as the delivery driver (Susumu Terajima) is the one that ran down their son and killed him, the chubby little man humiliated and obliged to apologize for his terrible accident every year to the Yokoyama's, but too stupid to realize what's going on. Mum blames him 100% for taking her favorite son from her and can not understand why someone so good should go and an idiot like him should stay on this mortal coil. But dad has tired of this annual meeting and bitter with the world, increasingly withdrawn and missing the respected life as a locum, every year haranguing Ryoto to retrain in medicine and carry on the family tradition while he still can, pop whiling away the days in his old surgery mixing potions that have no patients waiting on them, a familiar routine for all. But this year's get-together feels different, Ryoto really coming to notice his parents growing fragility as age nags at their pride and dignity, yet another hint of the responsibilities to come and so yet more of his future dreams lost, something we can all relate to. But can he finally convince his dad to accept him as the man he is and grow their bond more before it is too late...
Shot over 24 hours, this a character study of the family dynamic as we universally know it, in Japan the most important tie that binds. The idea is for the viewer to relate to that everyday family situation when you are all bundled together and show how it's pretty much the same whatever your religion or skin color and wherever you are., the younger ones dying to get it over with but the older ones the only thing they live for, something we selfishly forget. If we are all honest our family is not necessarily the people we would pick as friends, in most cases family life feeling like being at work without pay.
Hirokazu Koreeda direction is impressive and intimate, the camera lingering on the main protagonists every emotion as the family's story unfolds so to discover the underlying angst to their get-togethers, the Yokoyama power shift driven by age and vulnerability. Japanese films tend to be very conservative at the best of times and when that domestic oppression is captured succinctly it works so well on film, here the surrender of the old Japan to the contemporary one what this is really about. Interestingly, the locations of the film on the North East coast of Japan are the ones destroyed by the tsunami, Japanese peoples live dictated just as much by natural forces as family.
Although this wasn't the greatest family study ever made its not that bad, engaging from start to finish. We can all relate to a character in the film and that's what makes it so watchable. I'm certainly the black sheep in the family who didn't achieve as well as I could in life and my younger brother the paternal realist that bails us all out, emotionally and physically when we come off the rails. But what this film is mostly is real, an intelligent gentle drama that captures the banal routine and structures of life that we rarely own up to feeling comfortable in and how we take our parents for granted for allowing us the chance of life, the greatest gift of all, hardly worthy of asset of bath crystals every year from your mum.
Time Out -"Koreeda's almost sage-like understanding of what makes modern families tick places him and this wonderful film in the league of Japan's grand master, Ozu, and you can't ask for higher praise than that".
The Guardian -"An acutely observed and tenderly rendered portrait of family, mortality and remembering".
The Times - "Still Walking is so uncommonly and beautifully perceptive about how families interact that it feels as natural as putting one foot in front of the next".
New York Times - "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"
Imdb.com - 7.9/10.0 (2,622 votes)
Metacritc.com - 89% critics approval rating
Rotttentomatos.com - 100% critic's approval!