A masterpiece from Hirokazu Kore-eda; a one (and a half)-day-in-the-life family reunion drama that quietly implodes with rude, blunt character comedy. As the film opens, mother & grown daughter are prepping lunch for three generations. The grandparents are getting too old to live by themselves and the daughter is thinking of moving in with her husband & two kids. Four people too many for grumpy granddad. Her brother is also making a rare visit, bringing along a new wife & step son, for the twelfth anniversary of the eldest son’s death by drowning. (The unworthy fellow he saved will also make his awkward annual visit.) For writer/director/editor Kore-eda, it’s both set-up and plot, enough to ring the changes in the family dynamic, finding action in incremental relationship adjustments staged in depth with minimal camera movement. Kore-eda may be working in the tradition of Yasujirô Ozu (a late classic like GOOD MORNING/’59, right down to the ‘pillow shots,’ those little interstitial still-life buffers between scenes), but, though precise & gently paced, the tone & filming style are Kore-eda’s own, with every character at one point or another showing fangs behind the excruciatingly good manners. Or, in the case of the grandparents, barely bothering to hide them. Told with an underlying grace, humor, rhythm & thoughtfulness that holds to the flow of life, it’s a remarkable (and remarkably emotional) achievement. Built out of perfectly composed shots that never call attention to themselves.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: No names/no titles, please, but this effortlessly puts all those clumsy, plotty, beat-driven Hollywood family-gathering pics to shame. Yes, the ‘good’ ones.
DOUBLE-BILL: Other Kore-eda films seen here don’t quite match this, instead, as mentioned above, Ozu’s GOOD MORNING.