Ninties comedy Seinfeld was regularly described as “a show about nothing”, yet it had enduring appeal. “Still Walking” is similar in this regard. The film is not story driven, but is a very human representation of a family dealing with grief and relationships.
|Year of Release||2008|
|Age Rating||U (Universal)|
A friend of mine was considering whether to come along to this film, but decided not to as his reading around the film was that it seemed downbeat. Upon my return home, he asked whether this film about grief was really sad. Much to his disappointment, I replied that it wasn’t and that it made me chuckle quite a bit and that is of full credit to the director and his script. I first heard of Kore-Eda earlier this year when I went to watch the maginificent Shoplifters (Summary here). The characters in that film are likeable and you learn more throughout this journey.
His name was Ryo and he’s walking on the sand
I will try to describe the plot, however there are a lot of names. The film mainly centres around Ryo so I will discuss everyone in relation to him and have left a family tree below.
Every year, Ryo and his sister Chinami and their families go to their parents house to commemerate the death of older brother Junpei (Who died drowning while saving someone). Their parents, Toshiko and Kyohei, adored Junpei. Meanwhile, Ryota brings along his Widowing wife Yukari and her son Atsushi who feels distance from Ryo and doesn’t call him dad. Ryo also unresolved daddy issues as Kyohei doesn’t approve of his career as a restorator and wishes he was a doctor like Junpei would’ve been and like Kyohei is.
Further tensions are there as Ryo’s mother Toshiko doesn’t want Chinami’s family to move in with her and struggles to accept Atsushi into the family. This seems like a lot, but each thing fades in and out and generally deals in subtleties.
Ninety percent of this film is set in Ryo’s parents’ house over the course of the weekend. It doesn’t feel cramped but organic as people enter and leave the scene in a real way. You’ll see three or four people converse while making dinner or two people in a quiet room or a scene with everybody in.
Unlike your typical family drama piece, this film works on subtle tensions, through indirect comments and actions. In one example, Ryo’s wife questions why his mother bought Ryo pyjamas for the night but not Atsushi. In another, Atsushi talks to his grandad about his wish to be a piano tuner. The grandad tells him to consider being a doctor, much to the disdain of Ryo who forbids his father from doing so. All of this is done in hushed voices.
There is a consistent theme of time. Mourning and acceptance don’t happen in the real world after a fight, neither are relationships built. Therefore, the one thing Kore-Eda wants to show is how these issues won’t be all dealt with over night and thats the elegance. The film isn’t open and shut as much as it is a window into the lives of this family. As they all reveal more and you understand this new information, this family organism makes more sense. You empathise with these characters and understand their flaws.
The plain colours, the minimalist music and the calm nature made watching the film feel like an act of meditation.
Click Here For Major Plot Spoilers and DiscussionWhen everyone departs at the end of the weekend, it would be so easy for Kore-Eda to kill off a grandparent to make the theme of permanence go full circle. However, to his credit, they die three years later. We are left with some answers, such as what happens to Ryo’s family, but many more questions of whether the family were able to resolve all of their issues before time. This idea of hope but don’t show is a testament as it keeps to the theme of the rest of the film.
While the film doesn’t portray much of the story narrative, it certainly has substance. Despite the sad themes, the characters will make you smile as you feel part of this family. Keeping you invested throughout, the film truly feels like a human representation. [Grade: A]