Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking is a nuanced, Ozu-esque family drama with a delicate balancing and interplay between tranquility and simmering underlying tensions, warmth of a reunion and suppressed memories, renewing of bonds and inadvertently touching on raw nerves, ever yawning generational gaps, and between life and death. Regrets, unresolved elements from the past, and mortality, therefore, formed key themes of what was a personal work for the director (he’d made this just a year after his mother’s demise). The death anniversary of their eldest son Junpei, who’d accidentally drowned many years back while rescuing another kid, forms the occasion for congregation of the Yokohama family and the setting of an interweaving study – Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), a retired doctor and gruff family patriarch; Toshiko (Kirin Kiki), the fussy and frank-speaking mother; their second son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), a floundering art restorer with a complex relationship with his father; the beautiful widowed single mother Yukari (Yui Natsukawa) who Ryota has married, to his conservative parents’ dismay, and her young son; the Yokohamas’ lively daughter (You), who’s come with her easy going husband and their precocious kids; and, most disconcertingly, also the kid who Junpei had saved and who’s now grown into a struggling man. Set over the course of 24 hours, the gently roving camera affectingly portrayed the various characters, through rambling discussions, pointed conversations, awkward silences, subtle attempts at reconciliation and quiet reflections, as the brilliantly chaotic first half made way for a more meditative 2nd half. Interestingly, this was made in the same year as two other exquisite films on familial dysfunctions, bonds and complexities – Olivier Assayas’ ravishing Summer Hours and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s low-key Tokyo Sonata.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Genre: Drama/Family Drama