TV Man Union
Now Showing at: The Carnegie Arts Center
Presented by Cincinnati World Cinema on Saturday, May 7 at 6pm and Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30pm
Review by: Larry Thomas
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as the “normal” family, and that any group of people brings its own baggage to the party. Yes, families are related by blood and a gene pool, but they’re also related by secrets, sadness, and strife. The Japanese film Still Walking, by director Hirokazu Kore-Eda, examines the dynamics of such a family in Yokohama. Father is a retired doctor. He doesn’t want to be retired, and still requires the respect of his position. Mother has never worked outside the home. The center of their universe is their home, and the film focuses on the annual anniversary of the death of the eldest son. The other two siblings, a son and daughter, and their respective families, return for a visit, a dinner, and a remembrance of the absent loved one.
In many respects, Still Walking resembles a Japanese version of a Eugene O’Neill play, or one of Woody Allen’s introspective films such as Interiors. But it also incorporates the differences of Japanese customs and lifestyle. Finding out what makes each family member tick is like peeling away another layer of onion. One revealed secret might lead to another hidden sorrow.
If this all sounds like it’s as dry as burnt toast, that’s not the case at all. Getting to know this family one layer at a time is a fascinating journey of discovery, aided by some Oscar-caliber performances. Although the actors are not known in this country, their faces will stay with you. Particularly noteworthy are the elder mother and father, as they’ve lived longer, and have experienced more to share, and hide.
If my description sounds carefully vague, it’s because to disclose any of the revelations about these characters would rob you of finding out first-hand what drives, bonds, and yes, even divides, these family members.
Why did the elder son die? Why doesn’t anyone seem to like the daughter’s husband? Why did the younger son marry a divorcee with a young boy? Why is this anniversary such an important ritual?
In many ways, the plot unfolds much like a mystery novel. As things are revealed, it helps to make sense of other things we’ve already learned. And chances are you’ll likely see some reflections of your own family within this group of people.
Even though a large portion of Still Walking is shot on interior sets of the house, there are some outside scenes that are beautifully filmed. And the spare, mournful score, done mostly for solo guitar, is haunting. The film managed some award nominations and wins, mostly in Asia, but has been totally ignored in the U.S. That’s a shame, since it’s a memorable film of discovery that’s well worth discovering.
Still Walking is presented by Cincinnati World Cinema in Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center. It’s showing Tuesday at 7 pm, preceded by a social hour with snacks and a cash bar. The post-film discussion will feature representatives from the Japan America Society and Northern Kentucky University.