5 October 2008 | howard.schumann
A sense of naturalism and simplicity
A middle-aged brother and sister and their families visit their aging parents on the fifteenth anniversary of their brother Junpei's death from drowning while saving another boy. Relationships between generations are strained, however, and patriarch Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), a former doctor, does not hide his resentment for his surviving son Ryoto (Hiroshi Abe), an out of work art restorer. Selected as the best film at the Toronto International Film Festival in a poll of film critics and bloggers, Hirokazu Koreeda's Still Walking is a family-oriented comedy/drama about generational conflict and the consequences of loss. Unfolding in real time over a twenty-four hour period, it has been compared to Ozu's Tokyo Story in its intimate interchanges that accurately capture the way families relate to each other but lacks Ozu's warmth and subtlety.
The day is spent with routine activities such as preparing meals and playing with the small children. Kyohei remains detached and hides in his office, pretending to be occupied with medical business. He only emerges to bicker with his wife (Kiki Kinn) and play with his grandson. Ryoto, who did not look forward to the reunion, is put off by his father's disdain for his profession of art restoration and his coolness toward his new wife Yukari (Yui Natsukawa). She craves acceptance for herself and her son Atsushi (Shoehi Tanaka) from a previous marriage in which her husband died. A picture of the deceased Junpei is placed in the center of the Yokoyama family house reminding Ryoto that whatever he does, he cannot measure up to Junpei, who was to be his father's heir.
He also notices that his sister Chinami (You) has no such expectations and her life with her car-salesman husband and two children seems outside of the range of family conflicts. When the boy that Junpei rescued visits the family, sneering remarks are made about his bulky frame and lack of ambition and old resentments come to the surface. After Chinami and her family leave, it is clear that Ryoto wishes he had not agreed to spend the night but conflicts seem to soften with the passage of time. Based on a novel by the director and occasioned by the death of his mother and the discussions of his childhood they had during her last days, Still Walking has a sense of naturalism and simplicity that is endearing.