My mom suggested I watch a Japanese film for the challenge because I’ve watched a movie from every major East Asian country except Japan, so I took her suggestion and watched Our Little Sister.
Based on the manga series Umimachi Diary, Our Little Sister is a family drama centered around three sisters: 29-year-old Sachi (Haruka Ayase), 22-year-old Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), and 19-year-old Chika (Kaho). Their father divorced their mother and left them for another woman when they were young. Fifteen years later, when he passes away, the three sisters attend his funeral where they meet fourteen-year-old Suzo (Suzu Hirose), their half-sister from their father’s second marriage. Hearing that Suzo no longer has anyone to look after her, Sachi asks Suzo to live with her and the two other sisters. Suzo agrees and moves in with the three sisters, but will they all be able to get along despite their complicated relationship?
Our Little Sister presents a complex situation for its characters that is also equally difficult for the audience to sort through. While Sachi seems to have done the right thing by compassionately taking in her parentless half-sister, is Sachi’s decision really the best for her two immediate sisters? Even though both Yoshino and Chika seem to be fine with Suzo moving in, and although Chika even seems to enjoy having a younger sister to play with, will things still be this peaceful in the long run? And even if Sachi and her two immediate sisters are fine with Suzo moving in, is this really the best for Suzo? During a family memorial service, Suzo has an awkward first meeting with Sachi’s mother, who asks the pointed question of how they are able to get along. Suzo responds with a smile and says her sisters are all kind to her, but later on, she apologizes to Sachi for having stolen Sachi’s father from her side. Suzo is riddled with feelings of guilt for having taken someone else’s father and having the intimate father-daughter relationship that Sachi and her sisters never had. Although Sachi keeps telling Suzo it’s not her fault, but the adults’ fault, Suzo still can’t seem to shrug off her guilt. Another layer of complexity is added to the situation when we realize that Sachi is having an affair with a married man and is about to break up someone’s marriage just as Suzo’s mother did.
Our Little Sister is another movie from Director Hirokazu Koreeda, who directed Like Father, Like Son, which is another family drama that places its characters in extraordinary situations, so it comes as no surprise that Our Little Sister presents such a complicated premise. Also similar to Like Father, Like Son, Our Little Sister features beautiful cinematography. Breathtaking shots of the countryside and blooming sakuras abound in Our Little Sister, and the elegant music harmonizes well with the beautiful cinematography. Koreeda also pays close attention to detail, and every shot and arrangement is not only relevant to the story and its themes, but also an intricate visual pleasure to watch.
Our Little Sister is a beautiful piece of cinema, and it presents a complicated, but interesting situation for viewers to ponder. The film is heavily philosophical and psychological and less plot-driven, so if you are looking for an exciting story, this may not be the movie for you. But if you are looking for a film with psychological depth, then Our Little Sister will be worth a watch.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Title: Our Little Sister
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Writer: Hirokazu (screenplay based on manga from writer Akimi Yoshida)
Cast: Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzo Hirose
Run time: 2 hrs 6 min