Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yui Natsukawa, Yoshio Harada
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Running Time: 115 mins
Still Walking is a Japanese film about a family that gathers for a rare reunion whose purpose only becomes clear after everyone arrives.
This sort of elegant, intimate and patient slice-of-life drama is the sort of thing that Japanese filmmakers excel above all others. With the likes of Tokyo Story, Our Little Sister, Rhapsody In August and more all bringing beautiful and powerful stories to the big screen, we’ve seen the genre work so well before, but I can’t quite say that Still Walking is quite as effective.
First off, let’s talk about why Still Walking is a good film, even if it’s not the world’s most dramatically powerful. Above all, it’s that typically patient and elegant atmosphere that makes it such an engrossing watch throughout. At no point is the story rushed for even a second, and although that means you may have to wait a little longer for the best drama to kick in, it’s a very impressive and immersive atmosphere that grabs you right from the off.
Secondly, the film’s reserved and very genuine nature is what also makes it a riveting watch. In a lot of Hollywood productions that centre on somewhat dysfunctional families coming together, you’ll see big, melodramatic arguments and theatrics, the likes of which are often far more frustrating than effective. In the case of this film, however, while it still focuses on tense relationships and conflict, everything remains very down-to-earth, and is as a result far more engaging than anything too melodramatic.
The performances all play into that just as well, with Hiroshi Abe in particular proving an excellent lead, bringing his character’s conflicted emotions in a difficult situation to light clearly from the start, while working in a convincing manner as real family members with real family issues alongside co-stars like Yui Natsukawa.
And of course, the directing is what really make the film work so well. As I’ve said the story itself isn’t necessarily the most powerful, not quite managing to really grab me with its conflict in the way intended, but thanks to Hirokazu Koreeda’s elegant directing, which is what gives the film its powerfully patient and down-to-earth vibes, you’re able to still be absorbed into it even when it doesn’t have the high emotional impact that it’s going for.
In general, I did like Still Walking, but its biggest problems do lie in its story. Above all, while its genuine and down-to-earth atmosphere is what makes it so charming and absorbing, it’s also a little bit of a weakness when trying to grab you with some of the more cinematic drama, as the higher drama and conflict clashes to a degree with the strikingly real-world nature of it all.
Overall, Still Walking is a good, elegant slice-of-life drama that features a beautifully down-to-earth and real-world atmosphere, furthered by some strong central performances, even though its story doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights it aims for, which is why I’m giving it a 7.3.