Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 28th June 2008
Box Office USA: $86.0k
Distributed by: IFC Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Producer: Yoshihiro Kato, Satoshi Kono, Hijiri Taguchi, Masahiro Yasuda
Screenwriter: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe as Ryota Yokoyama, Yui Natsukawa as Yukari Yokoyama, Kazuya Takahashi as Nobuo Kataoka, Shohei Tanaka as Atsushi Yokoyama, Kirin Kiki as Toshiko Yokoyama, Yoshio Harada as Kyohei Yokoyama
On the 15th anniversary of their golden-boy son's death, Toshiko and Kyohei (Kirin and Yoshio) have a special dinner party for their surviving children.
Son Ryota (Hiroshi) brings his wife (Yui) and her son (Shohei) from her late first husband. Daughter Chinami (You) brings her smiley husband (Kazuya) and their two children (Ryoga and Hotaru). But it's clear that the parents haven't moved on from their other son's death, and they can't face the fact that their other children have grown up to have lives of their own.
Shot in a gentle, unfussy style, the static camerawork sharply catches the icy relationships and cutting barbs of dialog. Filmmaker Kore-eda also builds an outrageously oppressive sense that the dead son is still very much part of the parents' lives; it's as if he died yesterday and they're still holding the wake. They also still hold a nasty resentment toward the young boy--now a grown man--their son died rescuing. But their harshest judgement is held for Ryota, who they still see as the black sheep of the family despite all evidence to the contrary.
Kore-eda captures the intense pressure of expectations with subtle insight and a warm sense of humour that's honest and edgy. From banal conversations to backhanded insults, it's what isn't said that makes the difference. And the script tellingly examines generational issues from parents to children to grandchildren, constantly surprising us with sharp details and lovely revelations about who these people really are behind the images others have of them.
This is a rich, liberating film that really captures conflicting feelings we can all identify with: the deep desire to reconnect with our family members and also the need to get away from our parents and siblings so we can be ourselves again. Even though everything seems civilised on screen, the film exquisitely observes this awkward truth with wisdom, artistry, humour and an understanding that love, respect and regret come as a package.