Sunday, 8 May 2016


A typically observant, engrossing insight into contemporary Japanese culture from Koreeda Hirokazu. Our Little Sister breaks little new ground for the filmmaker, though showcases his skill for dramaturgy with its unforced adaptation of Yoshida Akimi's Umimachi Diary. The source is an ideal one for Koreeda, though perhaps all too ideal - it brings out the good in him, but not the great, aligning as it does too closely to his usual themes, discouraging any expansion from them or experiments away from them. Our Little Sister plays like recent Koreeda through and through, and the jolt of inspiration that this story's alternative origin ought to have provided never materialises. Koreeda hews to this inherited, yet wholly familiar, style and tone throughout, also employing the structure of Yoshida's manga, despite its episodic nature and cathartic content making for unfriendly bedfellows when presented on the screen. Nevertheless, one never questions the quality of the filmmaking, so secure is Koreeda here in the process of examining family life in present-day Japan. Cultures developed over decades, disrupted, disturbed and preserved, clash in expectedly harmonious fashion, the dramatic tension they engender simmering away through every scene of this most perceptive film. In his national cinema at least, nobody today knows character like Koreeda, due to the fact that nobody today knows relationships, particularly inter-generational and/or familial relationships like Koreeda. It's not only there in the writing, but in the charming acting, and in the effective shot compositions. And whether any of this will be new to fans of this filmmaker or not (and I suspect not), there can be little doubting this: the cherry blossom bike ride is the most joyous scene in any film this year.