The Morning Forest made big news here in Japan when it won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in 2007. There is usually not much support for Japanese film, especially art film, in the Japanese popular press. But when a Japanese film wins a prestigious international award, the press goes all out, and many theaters that would never dream of booking a film like this open their doors for sold-out screenings. This is exactly what happened with this film three years ago, and all the hype only served to make me want to avoid the film for a while.
Finally seeing it for the first time, it is easy to see why the film was a hit with Cannes jurors. Kawase’s visual style is beautiful, the pacing is reflective, and the performances are so naturalistic that this more often than not seems like a documentary, although it is not. The story, of a nurse who is coping with the death of her young son while acting as a caregiver for a Alzheimer patient who lost his wife 33 years earlier is full of emotion. This has all the things that make films like this popular outside of Japan, and unpopular inside the country—until it is recognized by an international award, that is.