Sunday, 2 January 2011

Still Walking

Another study of family life - this time from Japan. Every summer the family reunites to remember the passing of the eldest son. The Patriarch is embittered as no-one follows his career as a doctor. He is preoccupied with the old ways and honour is everything. He even refuses to go to the local store to buy milk in case a neighbour sees him with the shopping - a task too menial for a respected doctor to perform.

Guilt abounds and tension is ever present as everyone endures the reunion. The second eldest son has recently married a widow with a 10-year-old son and he is 'between jobs' neither of which endear him to his parents. The daughter is married to a car salesman and has children of her own. As with most cultures the grandchildren are over-indulged and get away with anything. It is the generation in the middle that are torn between the liveliness of the children and the impossible expectations of the grandparents. A scene of the evolution of values as generation passes on to generation.

It is the way the film weaves the mundane tasks of everyday life - preparing vegetables, with glimpses into eternity - the endless ocean and prayers to the departed, that is its strong point. All of this integrates into the tensions simmering just under the surface and which boil over from time to time.

There is much tenderness in this film as the generational expectations are played out finding varying degrees of success. The new bride is a sensitive and beautiful woman who desperately wants the best for her husband and to 'fit in' within her adoptive family. Despite his promises, the daughter's husband is better at sleeping than mending the tiles in the bathroom. But in the end no-one can live up to the expectations placed on them and the visit ends with relief that it's over for another year.

This is not a Japanese Another Year but it is a gentle film that allows the viewer the privilege of observing a different culture and its value system. It is well worth investing the time to watch. I'll give it 7.5/10.

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