Film Eye: A little sister by Hirokazu Koreeda

Notes on cinema inspired by historical images by Dan Williams

Our Little Sister is the new film from Hirokazu Koreeda, a Japanese director who has won plaudits for his sensitive and realistic dramas focusing on family relationships.

Have you ever imagined a surprising addition to your family, or living as an adult with just your siblings? This story realises both these scenarios as the three Koda sisters are joined by their half sister, following the death of their estranged father.

This is a charming film which shows the elder sisters take in 13 year old Suzu. The story revolves around a series of episodes, set in the city of Kamakura, a seaside city not far from Tokyo. Although the sisters’ household has a utopian aspect and may, in some respects, be difficult to imagine in reality, the film focuses our attention on a range of social issues, including the sisters’ relationships in and outside the family.
Some comparisons have been made with the classical work of Japanese director Ozu, although the most immediate influence is the graphic novel from which the film was adapted, The Umimachi Diary, ‘Seaside Town Diary’.

The Japanese cultural interest in and celebration of the changing seasons, including the significance of cherry blossom is vividly expressed through the locations and compositions. Artful images of Japanese nature and buildings form the backdrop for a gentle exploration of everyday relationships. Food and drink are made particularly important in various ways including the home production and savouring of plum wine.

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto in spring time ©Ronald Sheridan/Ancient Art & Architecture Collection

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto in spring time
©Ronald Sheridan/Ancient Art & Architecture Collection