In 1999, I chanced upon a new film by Japanese indie filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda called After Life, a wistful fantasy about the newly dead arriving at a way station on their way to eternity, where they're asked to choose exactly one memory from their lives to take with them and live in forever. It's a wonderful film and I urge you to see it.
Kore-eda's debut narrative feature, Maborosi, was glacially paced but beautifully shot. Both pictures dealt directly with death and remembrance, and so too does the writer/director's latest offering, Still Walking, a gentle portrait of a middle-class Japanese family in crisis.
Two grown siblings and their small families gather at the home of their parents one summer weekend in order to mark the twelfth anniversary of their older brother's accidental death. The drama that unfolds is one of great subtlety. Strong characterizations and warm, realistic performances, especially by veteran actress Kirin Kiki as the matriarch, are the best things about Still Walking, though Kore-eda also finds time for some gorgeous, if simple, visuals.
I wasn't as moved as I was by another recent Japanese family drama, the more offbeat Tokyo Sonata, and so I'm not going to tell you to rush out and see this. But if you appreciate the tone of the great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu's domestic pictures, you will enjoy Still Walking, even if its style is far less formal.