Friday, April 5, 2013

Still Walking

Year: 2008 | Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda | Roundup Rating: A

Whenever I write a film review I cannot prevent myself from falling prey into my usual subjective mode. The moment I write about a movie and examined and dissect its parts, the more I talk about myself and how the picture speaks in volumes about a slice of my own life. It took some restraint on my part or probably some bouts of writer's block for me not to give in to the same old exercise, but I can only write about what I know - and it all comes down to me, myself and the movies I love. So let the chips fall where they may. 

Although Japan and South Korea are both located in East Asia do not be mistaken to get the same dramatic treatment when you watch a Japanese dramatic film. South Korean dramas are all about tedious monologues and crying fits, they pretty much wear their emotions on their sleeves. The Japanese cinema on the other hand shares more similarity to Scandinavia, they have perfected the art of truthful but realistic minimalism. 

Still Walking by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda is a day-in-a-life drama that encapsulates the weariness and the troubled relationship of a family stricken by a tragedy that took place fifteen-years ago. In my observation the best way to wrecked a marriage or to put unspoken distance between a family is by the death of a couple's child. Some of the movies I have seen in the past like The Accidental Tourist, Ordinary People and Rabbit Hole dealt with the same ordeal, with the earlier titles having broken marriages after their child's death. Those couples who chose to stay together for the sake of "marital obligation" becomes a stranger and embittered to each other just like the mother and the father in this movie. I feel bad how a loving relationship can be torn apart by death, even if the act is brought purely by an accident. 

The parents felt that they were cheated by life and robbed off from raising a good and promising son. In their own way when he passed away they also died. They've become devoid of any human emotions, to the point that they've denied their remaining children the love and affection they also deserved - just because they gave it to someone who is no longer around. I feel sad for them because after all, children are supposed to outlive their parents, not the other way around. But there is nothing more difficult than to live with people who makes you feel guilty about being alive. It is a real struggle for the younger son Ryota to be reminded daily - although indirectly - that he should have died instead of the son they have lost years ago. The act of grieving over a loved one - especially on a family member whose death seemed untimely - is a silent battle that never ends. But it is a reality that family's buried their heartaches and refused to acknowledge or to talk about it seriously. The only way for them to soothe their pain is by placing the guilt on someone else. 

The plot of the film may look like a confrontational drama; if done in places like Hollywood or in the Philippines their conflicts could only be resolved in heightened verbal exhanges and character's can be absolved only by tears and fiery outbursts. But this is Japan. This is the home of Ozu's "Tokyo Story" and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata". Although this is the same country famous for producing original surreal stories on anime and manga, when it comes to their cinema they always go back to basics by keeping the story real and by making their character's more human minus the soap opera. 

Family's are complex. They are a combination of people brought forcibly together by marriage and blood relations. They are not usually on the same wavelength but that is something they want the world to believe in. I could compare it to a broken vase. You can attach the pieces with a glue, paint the outside so it would look unbroken, but on the inside they know that once it's broken you can never put it together again.

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