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Our Little Sister

I watched Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters (2018) earlier this year and really enjoyed it. Our Little Sister (2015), also written and directed by Kore-eda, is a drama starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, and Suzu Hirose. It has an Ozu feel to it along with the Japanese awareness of impermanence, or mono no aware.

Three sisters live together in an old house, which once belonged to their grandparents, in Kamakura. Their father left fifteen years ago and, with another woman, lived in Sendai and then further north in Tōhoku. He's described by one of the daughters as being "kind but not good."

He had a fourth daughter with the other women, and after he dies the three sisters from Kamakura attend his funeral up north and meet their teenage sister for the first time. They invite her to come to Kamakura and live with them, and she keenly takes them up on the offer (in many ways she's more mature than her older sisters, as she had been left to take care of the father in the years before he died).

What follows is pure Japanese emotional "human drama" without the resultant tragedy that ends many other Japanese films. Using the Japanese scale for tear-jerkers, this one would probably be a one (out of three) tissue movie. Most of the heartache arises out of family problems (the father leaving, the mother leaving, the sisters having had to bring each other up). Although those painful events are long in the past, their new sister and other matters bring them back to the surface; together they come to terms with what happened and how it has changed them. There is also the realization among each of them individually that, as much as they need their sisterly love, their living together and dependence on each other are unlikely to last for very much longer (mono no aware) as they pursue romantic relationships and consider their careers as well as families of their own.

Hirokazu Kore-eda with the actresses who played the sisters
Hirokazu Kore-eda with the actresses who played the sisters


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