Adapted from Akimi Yoshida’s bestselling serialized manga Umimachi Diary, the new film from Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son; Nobody Knows), unfolds with the gentle rhythm of the waves that lap the shore of the seaside town of Kamakura, where this deeply affecting drama about a fractured, all-female family takes place.
The three Koda sisters have been on their own ever since their parents’ divorce, their mother having moved away shortly after her husband left her for another woman. Now in their twenties, the sisters still live together in the house that once belonged to their grandmother. The eldest sister, Sachi (Haruka Ayase), the de facto head of the family, works as a nurse; the middle child, Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), has a successful career at a bank; while the youngest, Chika (Kaho), is a fashionable, fun-loving free spirit. When they receive news of their father’s death, the sisters are surprised to discover that they have a step-sibling, the thirteen-year-old Suzu (Suzu Hirose), who gratefully accepts her elder sisters’ offer to come live with them. The presence of the shy young Suzu, for whom the loss of her father is still a fresh wound, stirs long-dormant memories among the three sisters, who had thought of their father (if they thought of him at all) as a phantom. And the painful past becomes fully present once more when the women’s mother suddenly reappears after fifteen years.
As luminous and detailed as a traditional ukiyo-e (“picture of a floating world”), Our Little Sister is a subtle meditation on loss, absence, and the acceptance of death. Carrying on a great tradition of Japanese filmmaking, Kore-eda once again transforms everyday life into a deceptively simple yet truly oceanic masterpiece.
“The film is quiet, understated and gentle, allowing the audience to take pleasure in teasing out its narrative subtleties, and presented with wonderful freshness and clarity.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
“Kore-Eda’s film is more than the beautifully luminous faces of his actresses, the particular way they move and speak, or the lovely landscapes of Kamakura, even though all of these should be admired. So much more lies buried in-between the lines.” (Dan Fainaru, Screen International)