Monday, August 24, 2009
Still Walking (歩いても 歩いても)
An old Chinese idiom says: "Every family has its own dilemma (家家有本难念的经)." A dilemma not only makes each family unique, it also creates precious memories. Family stories are cherished by family members and get passed on from generation to generation, for better or for worse.
Award winning Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (是枝裕和) gently tells a family's story in his new film "Still Walking" (歩いても 歩いても | Japan 2008 | in Japanese | 114 min.). Through an ordinary dysfunctional family, this beautiful film inspires us to reflect love and resentment in our own family lives, and perhaps some secrets too.
On a summer day, Ryota Yokoyama (Hiroshi Abe) and his sister Chinami Kataoka (You) bring their families to visit their elderly parents on the 12th anniversary of their brother Junpei's death. Everybody in the Yokoyama family still lives in the shadow of that tragic event, and Ryota's father Kyohei (Yoshio Harada) remains feeling bitter about Ryota's refusal of becoming a doctor to carry on the family clinic. Ryota's mother Yukari (Yui Natsukawa) continues to cook family's favorite meals while making sarcastic remarks about almost anybody. The reunion brings out fond family memories, as well as unresolved hard feelings. This seemingly uneventful day becomes an endearing family portrait, and it forever brings back the nostalgia sentiment that bonds a family together.
Like his previous acclaimed films such as "After Life" and "Nobody Knows," in this new family drama, Kore-Eda's tells an engrossing story with deep affection. He develops characters through daily activities that are nothing dramatic. He fills each scene with ample details that enrich the story and characters.
This is a film that deserves multiple viewings (I have already watched three times), because each viewing reveals more details that might have been overlooked previously, and each viewing roots the story deeper into the heart. Everyone should be able to identify oneself with some of these characters, because as ordinary as the Yokoyama's story appears, it is profoundly universal and extraordinary.