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Wednesday 27 April 2016

Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary), Film Japan (2015), directed by Hirozaku Koreeda, 9* out of 10

Hirozaku Koreeda’s Our Little Sister is an uplifting family drama. It is very Japanese, yet deals with universal subjects which resonate with audiences all over the world; a delight.

The three Koda sisters, Sashi 29 (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino 22 (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika 19 (Kaho), share a house in Kamakura, a provincial Japanese town. Sashi is a nurse and has replaced the young women's mother as best a sister can. Sashi is in a relationship with a married man, a doctor at the hospital at which she works. Yoshino works at a bank and has a penchant for going out with the wrong kind of boyfriend. The lively and quirky Chica works in a sport-shop, and has found a similarly quirky soul-mate there. When the three sisters hear that their estranged father, a bon- vivant who was in his third marriage, has suddenly died, they decide that it is their duty to go to his funeral. There they meet their father’s daughter by his second wife, Suzu Asano (Suzu Hirose). As far as the three sisters are concerned their half-sister Suzu is the daughter of the home-wrecker. But she is also their little 14-year-old half-sister, who has nobody in the world, now that her beloved father has died. His third wife always disliked Suzu anyway. The three Koda sisters make a decision that will change their and Suzu’s life.

Based on a Manga comic by Akimi Yoshida, writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda has succeeded in making a beautifully observed and photographed film, exploring the concept of family relationships; how they exist, how we can construct, mould and extend them into a circle of friends and our local community. 

The acting performances match the high standard of the screenplay and direction. Striking for a Western audience are the high standards of teenage children’s behaviour at home and at school and Japan’s mono-cultural society, so different to what we are now used to. But feelings of friendship, family problems and family joys resonate all over the world, and so Our Little Sister is an uplifting delight of a film for audiences everywhere.

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