OUR LITTLE SISTER (UMIMACHI DIARY)
Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu
Stars: Ayase Haruka, Nagasawa Masami, Kaho, Hirose Suzu
* * * * (out of 5)
Not every viewer will go straight from the ballistic bravura of Mad Max: Fury Road to Kore-eda’s latest delicate domestic melodrama, and yet such a stark contrast is unnecessary to slip into and appreciate Our Little Sister’s warm, understated intimacy. Adapted from Akimi Yoshida’s manga comic series, it follows three twenty-something sisters, estranged from their mother yet still living together in the former family home, who effectively adopt their teenage half-sister when their mutual father dies.
The languid passing of time, often framed against seasonal events – plum gathering, summer fireworks – belies the cumulative emotional impact as each woman gradually reveals the emotional ramifications of parental abandonment (the sisters’ mother walked out when her husband had an affair) and their own conflicting dynamics in the improvised family structure. All four actresses are superb and Kore-eda’s subtle, shifting camerawork and an elegant piano-led score suggest the imperceptible changes at play.
There’s no sex, violence, profanity and barely an angry word is spoken, but for those attuned to Kore-eda’s gently insistent rhythms, still ample reward. Occasionally perhaps a little too sedate, and without the immediate emotional punch of After Life or Like Father, Like Son, this is still a kind, wise and utterly beguiling movie, one that moves into your heart and stays there.