Film Reviews

Still Walking Succeeds as Film About a Dysfunctional Family

What's remarkable about Still Walking, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's seventh feature film, is that the familiar comes across as fresh. Despite recycling potential clichés — the grouchy elderly father, the disenfranchised second son — Kore-eda imbues his story with such specificity, tactility, and humanity that yet another movie about a dysfunctional family reunion becomes a cinematic tone poem. The central source of the Yokoyama family's internal combustion — and the reason for their gathering — is the loss of the eldest son, Junpei, who died 15 years earlier. Inspired by the death of his parents, Kore-eda crafts the Yokoyama family elders as stubborn, petty, and harsh — far from an Ozu-esque portrait of an older generation readily accepting its fate. Patriarch Kyohei (Yoshio Harada) is an embittered retiree who reads the newspaper at the dinner table only to inject an occasional sidelong insult under his breath. Grandma Toshiko (Kirin Kiki, superb in every frame) isn't any softer. Her passive-aggressive cruel streak — initially cute while she grates radishes during the film's opening scene — grows darker and festers, eventually providing the film with its biggest maleficent jolt: "I'm not cruel," she tells her son, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), the unfortunate adult child at the center of this bubbling-over family conflict. "It's normal."

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Anthony Kaufman