Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the rare Japanese or modern film-maker to beautifully capture the mysteries of life and the idiosyncrasies of insecure human beings trying to muddle through the messes and miseries of day-to-day life. His films, "Nobody Knows" and "After Life" are my personal favorites. His stories imbue with tactility and humanity. Kore-eda's seventh feature film "Still Walking" (2008) is every bit sensitive as "Nobody Knows" and the story about a dysfunctional family reunion becomes a cinematic poem through his directorial vision.
"Still Walking" embodies a universality of experience, in which everything is understated and naturalistic. There is no melodrama and false emotions. The tone of the movie reminds us of the great Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu. From the repeated shot of a train passing in the distance to the static, carefully composed shot, there are similarities to Ozu. In fact, Koreeda can be called as the heir to Ozu, where an ordinary family gathering, evokes emotions that involves the viewer rather than distancing him.
The film covers 24 hours in the Yokoyama family, whose first-born died rescuing a drowning boy. Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), the younger son, is returning home to spend a day with his wife, Yukari (Yui Natsukawa), and his 10-year old step-son, Atsushi (Shohei Tanaka). Ryota is an art restorer and is jobless. He is is not close to his father, Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), and mother, Toshiko (Kirin Kiki) and unwilling to let his mother and father know anything about the job. Ryota's difficulties with his parents date to a time when his elder brother Junpei died (15 years earlier). Since Junpei's death, Ryota has found living up to his dead brother's memory to be an impossibility.
Patriarch Kyohei is a retired doctor and takes a peaceful walk every day around the port city of Yokosuka, while his wife Toshiko commands the kitchen. Their daughter Chinami (You), her car salesman husband (Kazuya Takahashi), and their two children have arrived before Ryota. She would like to move her family into the parents' house. Yukari, Ryota's wife, is the only voice of calm in this clan and it is at her insistence that they are not only going to show up for Junpei's memorial but also stay overnight.
In the hushed stillness of regret, the film bristles with a sublime quality. From the close-ups of succulent, snapping, fried corn to the ending -- in which the members of the older generation express a desire to see their children more often, while the younger couple wishes the opposite -- the film evokes nostalgia of our family's better and worst moments. Director Koreeda's brings serenity about the gathering, though there are some ugly moments, notably a visit from the pathetic young man Junpei saved, who is judged with harshness by the old people. Kore-eda was inspired to make this film because the death of his parents. In an statement, he said, "As an ungrateful eldest son who used the demands of my profession to excuse my long absences from home, I find myself troubled by regrets, to this day. 'If only I'd been more . . .' 'Why did I say that then . . .' Still Walking is a movie launched by the experience of regret that we all share . . ."
Kore-eda compositions are graceful and is observant of all small things. The script is like a best Chekhov story -- in capturing how family disputes is as much a matter of avoidance as head-on confrontation. Another poignant aspect of the direction is the treatment of death in the lives of this dysfunctional family. Even though he is dead, Junpei hovers over all of the interactions of the one day these people spend with each other in a long time. In the ending, Ryota simply explains the fate of his parents and the things they idly discussed doing "some day" where never done. Also, it's not all doom and gloom: Kore-eda celebrates the best of his mother by cooking up her favorite recipes and there is unexpected humor in the proceedings
I think many people can relate to the emotions and ideas expressed in the final five minutes of "Still Walking." In this globalized world, the relationships between parents and their adult children are not so very different. But, only a film-maker like Kore-eda can illustrate that in an unforced way.
"Still Walking" is an appealing bittersweet drama and an cautionary tale of not being too late to embrace loved ones.
Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo) -- IMDb