Our Little Sister

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Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda had a compelling story last time out with Like Father, Like Son (about babies swapped at birth). With this movie, it feels like an endurance test. It was one I failed. At just over two hours, my girlfriend and I were so bored, we left when it had about seven minutes to go. We had little interest in what the outcome would be; and in my defense, the movie started late due to technical difficulties, and we had a second screening immediately after and we wanted a quick bite to eat.

The film is meticulously shot, nicely framed in every way, and we get beautiful landscapes of the seaside of Kamakura. The actresses playing sisters all have chemistry together, but aside from a few gorgeous scenes, there’s just nothing here.

It’s based on the novel Umimachi Diary by Yoshida Akimi. Sachi is the oldest of three sisters, and is basically the surrogate mom. Their dad left the family after an affair he had resulted in a child. Sachi is also the head nurse at a hospital, working in an area dealing with the terminally ill. She’s also having an affair with a married doctor.

Yoshino is the middle child, and a bit of a wild child. She keeps dating the wrong men, and she likes to drink. She works at a bank.

The youngest sister, Chika, is one I can’t figure out. Either she’s the happiest person on the planet, or she has a mental disability. She always has this bizarre smile on her face, and it’s hard to figure her out. She works at an athletic shoe apparel place, and I’m assuming her co-worker is also her boyfriend. She also has the fewest memories of her dad, as she was so young when he left.

When word comes that their dad has died, you’d like to say the plot thickens. I think it thins. The sisters meet their adolescent half-sister, Suzu Asano. Yet instead of there being tension, they seem to bond with her. She ends up living with the sisters, and sharing stories about their dad (on rare occasions). Most occasions, they’re eating, and not having anything all that interesting to say. One of them loves whitebait on her toast. The other agrees with her.

There’s no tension, as the youngest half-sister immediately has friends, a soccer team, and older sisters that care about her.

On occasion, it’s nice to watch the scenes of seasons changing. A bike ride through some cherry blossom trees is beautiful, but so what? Most of the time, this is as boring as watching paint dry.

This movie had no drama. Had the narrative given us just a little bit of conflict, maybe this would be worth the long slog.

There’s a critic that always gives me crap if I give a foreign film a bad review. He claims I just hate subtitles. That’s hardly the case. I just had my girlfriend watch Shower the other night. It was a Japanese film that came out 15 years ago that I adore. I could rattle off 20 foreign films I love.

Critics are often pretentious. They feel they have to praise Woody Allen movies, or be kind to foreign films, since they’re showing at the smaller art houses and that they’re….art. Sorry, but I need more than a beautifully shot film. There has to be a story. Listening to four Chinese girls talk about plum wine and boys…isn’t a story.

This gets 1 star out of 5.

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