Starring: Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Suzu Hirose
Director: Hirokuza Koreeda
Running Time: 128 mins
Our Little Sister is a Japanese film about three grown-up sisters living in an old house in the countryside who take in their 13 year-old half sister after the death of their father.
This is by no means a simple watch, but it’s a hugely pleasant one. Our Little Sister is a perfect example of how a slow, calm and natural film can pull you in so much deeper than something big and loud, with fantastic performances, beautiful directing, brilliant dialogue and an emotionally impressive, but never melodramatic story.
The most striking thing about this film is the directing. It’s all very understated, but the director is so brilliant at giving you staggeringly beautiful vistas of the countryside landscape of Japan. It never takes over what’s happening in the story, but the way that the natural world is presented in this film is so special, and makes it an absolute joy to watch.
The performances are great too. Again, with a very quiet and understated story, the actors all do a fantastic job at providing interesting drama and engaging character development, which makes the slow pacing of this film feel almost invisible, as you’re able to be pulled in so effectively by the very human, realistic performances, which was so impressive to see.
And that ability to create a realistic drama continues in the film’s dialogue. The performances are all fantastic, but without the brilliantly-written dialogue, that feels so natural and real, this film may not have been as brilliantly engrossing as it is. Luckily, however, every line is so well-crafted, and fits so well with whatever’s going on on screen, that you become totally immersed in this film as if you’re right there taking part in these conversations.
This is effectively a ‘slice of life’ drama, where we’re not getting an over-the-top, cinematic melodrama, but one that just peers into some people’s lives, and makes a compelling story out of it.
That’s true for a lot of the film, and I definitely enjoyed following the brilliant plot here, but if there is one complaint that I do have with Our Little Sister, it lies within the way the story is told. Understated films are fantastic, and shouldn’t be overlooked, but in this film, I felt as if it was just a little too quiet in its opening stage to get you fully up to speed with what’s going on.
Don’t get me wrong, the calm nature of the film is beautiful for the most part, but for the first twenty minutes or so, I did feel a little lost with the characters’ various backgrounds and relationships due to little early exposition, which made for an occasionally frustrating watch at the beginning.
Overall, however, Our Little Sister is a wonderful film, and it uses understated drama in a brilliantly realistic and immersive way, helped further by great performances and fantastic directing, so that’s why it gets a 7.5 from me.