I really enjoyed the style of Naomi Kawase’s Nanayomachi yesterday, but the fact that the main character, who is in each and every scene, was a bit unlikable, especially at the beginning, and was a bit too ambiguous kept it from becoming a new favorite film. But I liked it enough to want to see more of Kawase’s work right away.
Although The Mourning Forest is Kawase’s most famous film as it won at the Cannes Film Festival, Sharasojyu is probably the best representation of her as an artist, as it deals with all the main themes of her work, namely loss, family, and the cycle of life. It is also a great representation of life in traditional Japanese town Nara, where Kawase lives and has made almost all of her films. There is a big ambiguity at the center of the film, but it did not leave me wondering what had happened, as was the case with Nanayomachi, which never explained why the main character had run away to Thailand.
Sharasojyu opens with twin brothers playing at their family home tucked into the narrow streets of narrow. They are running through the streets when one of them, Kei, disappears without a trace. What happened to him is never explained or even questioned. About 7 or 8 years later, the remaining twin, Shun is an awkward 15 or 16, and the whole family is struggling to deal with the trauma of the missing child. Shun’s classmate Yu has a crush on him, but he is shy and withdrawn, although their mothers are good friends. The family is all busy helping to organize a local summer festival, where Yu leads a street dance that continues even through a downpour, an impressive scene which becomes the moment when the Shun and Yu’s families can wash away their sorrow over Kei. Shun’s mother, played by Kawase herself, gives birth to a baby at home with the help of a midwife, and the families are finally brought together and healed.
Kawase as usual uses a mix of professional and first-time actors. This sometimes leads to wonderfully naturalistic scene, and the amateurs that play Shun and Yu are great, but some of the other young actors are too inert, and Kawase seems a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera instead of behind it. But these are only small flaws in a nearly perfect film.