Still Walking

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 

Still Walking
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Ryo (Hiroshi Abe), with his new wife and stepson in tow, makes the long journey to his parents’ home to attend the annual gathering of family to mark the death of his older brother, Junpei. This favorite son died years ago saving a drowning child. The family patriarch (Haruko Kata) is a sullen old doctor angered when forced out to pasture due to his failing eyesight. He disdains Ryo, his second non-medico son and, maybe, his wife, Yukari (Yui Natsukawa). This family gathering, though, will be different from all of those previously held in “Still Walking.”

This terrific character study of a family, written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, is grounded in universal terms that could place it in any civilized city in the world. The family assembly to honor the dead is a trans-cultural one and the filmmakers, though depicting the day-to-day life of a Japanese family, uses western music to give the film a world feel. Food is an ongoing character throughout “Still Walking” and has a cathartic affect on the family members and their conflicts whenever they gather to eat.

The acting is believable and realistic. Grandpa would be grumpy because he feels that he is still useful even if his eyesight has gone bad. Ryo has lived in the shadow of his favored brother all of his life and resents his father for it. My favorite character, though, is Ryo’ stepson Atsushi. The young boy comes across as a wiseman observing the foibles of his new family as he lives among them. All of the family characters are given full dimension by the actors.

Production is simple but elegantly. Lenser Yukata Yamasaki uses long, static  camera shots of the family at meal and the discussions that take place and this befits the whole production. I felt as if I was taken in to a real home. I give it a B+.

This intimate family drama seems more French than Japanese with its chaotic gathering and multi-layered and constant dialogue.  While not as gut-punching as "Nobody Knows," "Still Walking" is an affecting and intimate look at the bonds and strains of family ties.  A-

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