September 13, 2011

Still Walking

by Allen Irwin

This review was first published in the Tufts University Daily on September 28, 2009 (here). I've made a few minor corrections.

Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo) (2008) - dir. Hirokazu Koreeda

Every fall season, when the heyday of the summer blockbuster is over, theaters are flooded with “serious” films. From historical epics to quirky indie dramedies, it is difficult to separate films of genuine quality from shallow prestige pieces. It is even more unfortunate that most moviegoers will probably overlook a mini-masterpiece like “Still Walking” (2009) because of its apparent lack of excitement and drama.

The film, the newest from writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda (“Nobody Knows,” 2004), is a slow-paced, meticulously composed slice of family life. The story follows a modern Japanese family over the course of two days as they gather together to remember the death of their oldest son, who drowned twelve years earlier while saving someone’s life. Long buried grievances and generational tensions slowly rise to the surface as the family members go about their everyday routines. However, there are no long, emotional speeches and no taut confrontations. Mr. Koreeda instead opts for a more realistic, and ultimately more effective, technique of focusing on the little exchanges and quiet interactions between the characters. The cumulative power that the film achieves through this method emerges so naturally and so quietly that it doesn’t seem at all forced or contrived.