August 28, 2009

How to make this weekend nearly perfect (i.e. Still Walking)

If you have a cable system that has IFC in Theaters VOD, then you have the opportunity to make this a great weekend. One of my favorite directors has made one of my favorite films of 2009. Indeed, I highly suspect that it will find a place very, very close to the top of my year-end list.

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walkingis a rare jewel of a film. It depicts family life in as honest a way as I've ever seen it portrayed in cinema. There's such simplicity to Kore-eda's filmmaking and such sublime subtlety to the performances that you may believe that the whole incident was some sort of happy accident. Indeed, Sam Adams, at The Onion's AV Club says, "The movie seems like a perfect found object, as if it had always existed and was just waiting to be uncovered."

Kore-eda is best known in the States for his films After Life and the brilliant 2005 drama Nobody Knows, about a young boy keeping his siblings together after their flighty mother abandons them. Still Walking fits more into the Nobody Knows camp, but unlike that film - where a sense of dread seemed to soak every event, even the joyous ones - the family in Still Walking is trying to find joy in the wake of tragedy.

I don't want to get plot heavy at all when talking about this film. I'll simply leave it to this: three generations of a family gather on the 14th anniversary of the death of the eldest brother in the middle generation. The event still haunts each member of the two older generations in unique ways. Don't dare imagine that you completely understand the motivations behind any of the characters - just as humans do in real life, these characters will surprise you with their compassion and with their anger.

The final scene is likely to draw a tear from your eye, and like the characters and their motivations, the tear may surprise you. Is it a tear of joy? A tear of knowing sadness? Is it that rare tear that is brought forth only by those works of art that approach perfection? Or is it all three. I'm going with the final choice.

Do yourself a favor and spend a Sunday afternoon with this joyously dysfunctional family. Still Walking will leave a lasting impression on you. And you'll thank for the recommendation.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it was only after about two dozen emails and phone calls that I finally had to cave in and accept that I wasn't going to be able to program this film for the 2009 Nashville Film Festival (the US premiere was already promised to Tribeca one week later).

Here's a trailer.

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