This film was screened in the 29th Leeds International Film Festival and I thought it the pick of a strong programme. The film is adapted from a popular manga title by Koreeda Hirokazu, who also edited the film. It is the most recent in a line of family dramas in the tradition of the Japanese film genre, shomin-geki [shōshimin-eiga, the lives of ordinary working people]. These include Like Father / Soshite chichi ni naru (2013) involving parentage and children: I Wish / Kiseki (2011) about separated siblings: and Still Walking / Aruitemo aruitemo (2008) about adults and their ageing parents. Our Little Sister combines aspects of the earlier films with its main focus on four sisters. Three of these are the adult Koda sisters, Ayase Haruka as Sachi, Nagasawa Masami as Yoshino and Kaho as Chika. The ‘little sister’ has Hirose Suzu as Asano Suzu, their step-sister. They and the supporting cast are very fine.
The film is set in Kamakura on the Yokohama peninsula; not that far away from Tokyo. But this is a small coastal town. The settings include the family home, urban and rural sites and the seashore. Koreeda and his team, notably cinematographer Takimoto Mikiya, offer fairly slow and detailed observation. Critics have made comparisons with the films of the great Ozu Yasijurō, but thematically this film is closer to the equally fine work of Naruse Mikio. There is loss but also resilience and the importance of memory and tradition. The film is a delicate study with moments of humour and irony. As with the earlier films food and meals are an important aspect of the lives and their study.
If you have not seen Koreeda’s films before this would make an excellent start. If you have you will know just how rewarding are his studies of family life. If we see half-a dozen equally fine films this year then 2016 will be a classic.