Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda makes beautiful, quiet movies about families: “Nobody Knows,” “I Wish,” “Like Father Like Son.”
His latest, “Our Little Sister,” focuses on a trio of 20-something siblings, living together in their family home in the seaside town of Kamakura: responsible Sachi (Haruka Ayase), rebellious Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), sunny Chika (Kaho). Soon, a fourth sister joins them — teenage Suzu (Suzu Hirose), daughter of their recently deceased father and his third wife.
Time goes by, a few seasons pass, cherry blossoms bloom, ripe plums are harvested. And, slowly, we get to know these sisters and their story.
The older sisters’ mother left them some time ago. The self-sacrificing Sachi, then still a teen, raised the two younger girls. Chika’s sweet, untroubled nature stems from her having few memories of her troubled parents in the home. Suzu, like Sachi, takes things seriously; she carries burdens rather than letting others ease her load. (“Someone is always hurt because I exist,” she says, of her parentage.)
When the three oldest sisters’ mother unexpectedly turns up later in the film, a few more questions are answered. Of Sachi, her mother says merrily, “She grew up instead of me.”
None of this lands with a thunderclap; instead, it’s all as gentle as the perfumed breezes you can almost see on the screen, wafting through the sisters’ garden. “Our Little Sister,” in its quiet way, shows us a girl falling in love with her new family (we see the older sisters through Suzu’s eyes as mysterious, beautiful creatures of kindness); a welcoming town where things rarely change; a pleasantly creaking house that has brought shelter and comfort to generations; and, most of all, a family changed with the years but as constant as the seasons.
It’s a movie that, by its serene final scene, changes its viewer. You leave happier, honored to have been, for two hours, part of this family.
(At the Tivoli.)
‘Our Little Sister’
Rated PG. Time: 2:08.
In Japanese with subtitles.